Turkish Air Forces’ plane carrying medical staff and supplies landed in the Somalian capital Mogadishu on Sunday to help the victims who were the subject of a brutal terrorist attack carried out by a bomb-laden vehicle. The attack killed nearly 80 people and injured many others.
The plane carrying 20 medical staff, including the national rescue team staff and surgeons, took off from Etimesgut Military Airport in the Turkish capital Ankara late Saturday and landed in Mogadishu early Sunday, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered Sunday condolence to his Somali counterpart over the deadly terror attack.
According to a statement issued by Turkey's Directorate of Communications, Erdoğan wished God's mercy upon those who lost their lives and speedy recovery for those injured during the phone conversation with Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo.
Erdoğan also reiterated that Turkey will continue to stand by Somalia in its fight against terrorism.
Releasing a Twitter message on Sunday, Farmajo thanked Erdoğan saying: “Thank you my brother for the continued support and for your phone call. Cowardly acts of terrorism will not hinder our historical brotherly bond. On behalf of my people, I convey our message of gratitude to you and to the Turkish Republic for your solidarity with our nation.”
The attack was one of the deadliest attacks in Mogadishu in recent memory, and witnesses said the force of the blast reminded them of the devastating 2017 bombing that killed hundreds.
Most of those killed were university and other students returning to class, Mayor Omar Mohamud Mohamed said at the scene. Two Turkish brothers were among the dead, Somalia's foreign minister said.
Turkey's Ambassador to Somalia Mehmet Yılmaz confirmed that two Turkish nationals were among the victims of the attack. Some of the injured were brought to the Turkish-run Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Training and Research Hospital located in the capital, Yılmaz added.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab often carries out such attacks. The terrorist group was pushed out of Mogadishu several years ago but continues to target high-profile areas such as checkpoints and hotels in the seaside city.
The terrorist group is now able to make its own explosives, its “weapon of choice,” United Nations experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia said earlier this year. The group had previously relied on military-grade explosives captured during assaults on an African Union peacekeeping force.
Al-Shabab was blamed for the truck bombing in Mogadishu in October 2017 that killed more than 500 people. The group never claimed responsibility for the blast that led to widespread public outrage.
Turkey, under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, launched a continental initiative to reach out to African countries whose relations with Turkey have been mostly limited since the early years of the Republic of Turkey.
Turkey's vast aid effort at the height of the 2011 famine endeared it to many Somali people, and it has continued to pour in aid, much of it from private companies.
It has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and providing Somalis with scholarships to study in Turkey. President Erdoğan has visited Mogadishu twice since his visit to the war-ravaged country in 2011. He was the first non-African leader to visit the war-ravaged country in 20 years.
Turkey's official humanitarian institutions, such as TİKA, the Turkish Red Crescent Kızılay and Diyanet Foundation along with civil initiatives such as the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) and Helping Hands, have implemented many development aid projects relating to infrastructure, education, health and related fields. For instance, TİKA financed projects in Mogadishu that included rehabilitating the Digfer Hospital, constructing 33 kilometers of roads and building the Somalian Statehouse.
Rapidly growing trade between the two nations has followed. In 2010, Turkish exports to Somalia totaled just $5.1 million. In five years, this figure ballooned to $123 million. In the space of a few years, Turkey has gone from Somalia's 20th-largest source of imports to its fifth-largest.
Relations between Turkey and Somalia date back to the 16th century. At the time, the Ottoman Empire sought to prevent Somalia from becoming a Portuguese colony. In the wake of the 16th century, Somalia was ruled by local elements of the Ottoman Empire, following the empire's demise, by Western colonial powers. During this period, the Ottoman presence in Berbera, just like the presence of the military training center in Somalia today, was the guarantee of peace in the region.
Contemporary Turkish and Somalian relations began with the opening of embassies in 1979, although Turkey's embassy was closed in 1992 due to the civil war in Somalia. In the following years, Turkey was not indifferent to Somalia's internal problems and joined the United Nations Operation in Somalia with an army under the control of Gen. Çevik Bir. During the civil war, some Turkish civil initiatives also provided assistance through their local partners.
During the transitional government in Somalia, official bilateral relations remained limited. Following this period, Prime Minister Erdoğan and the late President Abdullahi Yusuf met on the Jan. 29-30, 2012, at the African Union summit meeting in Addis Ababa. At this meeting, Prime Minister Erdoğan asked the Somali president to send a delegation to Ankara to present Somalia's needs.