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Turkish president in Somalia to launch development projects

Sunday, January 25, 2015

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Under tight security Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sunday launched development projects sponsored by his government including an airport terminal in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Hundreds of soldiers were deployed across Mogadishu where Somali Islamist extremists have carried out terror attacks targeting Turkish interests. Erdogan, on his second visit to Somalia, was accompanied by his wife, daughter and ministers. Erdogan opened a new Turkish-built terminal for the Mogadishu airport.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud lauded Turkey for investing in Somalia despite challenges, including insecurity, caused by decades of turmoil currently from an Islamist extremist insurgency by al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida. Two days ago three people died when an al-Shabab suicide car bomber detonated explosives at a hotel where the Turkish president's advance party was staying. No Turks were injured in that incident.

African Union troops, who are bolstering Somalia's weak government against al-Shabab's insurgency, blamed the attack at the hotel on al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab espouses a strict form of Islam and has long been threatening Turkish workers and aid agencies in Somalia accusing them of spreading secularism.

A Turkish security official and a Somali student were killed in a 2013 July attack on the Turkish consulate and relief mission in Mogadishu. In Oct 2011 al-Shabab killed at least 100 Somalis when a suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb in an area where there are several ministries including the ministry of Education, most of those killed were students applying for scholarships to study in Turkey.

Erdogan has worked to develop ties with Somalia as part of a drive to increase Turkey's influence internationally, especially in the Muslim world. Turkish Airlines was the first international carrier to resume flights to Mogadishu. Turkish companies have construction projects in Somalia including roads, hospitals and the airport. Turkish non-governmental organizations are working in Somali and Turkey offers scholarships for Somali students.

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