Al-Shabaab attacks a Turkish company in Somalia

At least one Turkish citizen would be among those killed by the car bomb
Atalayar_Atentado Somalia Al Shabaab

AFP/ABDIRAZAK HUSSEIN FARAH  -   Somali soldiers at the scene of a car bomb attack in Mogadishu on 28 December 2019

A new car bomb attack hit Somalia this weekend. In this case, the target was not the Somali security forces or the troops of any of the missions that are deployed in the country, but a Turkish company that is building a road between Mogadishu and Afgoye.

Four people are said to have been killed in the attack, three Somali soldiers who were guarding the construction site and a Turkish citizen. Four other people of Turkish nationality are said to be in hospital and their progress is being monitored by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack through Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for the military operations of the terrorist organisation linked to al-Qaeda. The choice of attack is significant. On the one hand, it hinders the development of rural or impoverished environments, a niche where discontent feeds to attract followers. On the other, it attacks Turkish interests in Somalia in an attempt to weaken relations between Ankara and Mogadishu.

Atalayar_Farmajo y Erdogan portada
PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN - Somalia's President Abdullahi Mohamed 'Farmajo' (left) is received by his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) at the Ankara Presidential Complex on 26 April 2017

Precisely because relations between the two countries have been growing closer in recent years, Erdogan has seen the possibility of supporting Somali development in order to compete against the influence of the Gulf, chiefly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. An example of this good relationship is the over $100 million Turkey has invested in development in the country over the past decade, allocating over $1,000 million to humanitarian aid.

Moreover, Turkish companies are in charge of the management of the port and the airport, in addition to the military presence that Turkey maintains in the country, with a base in the surroundings of Mogadishu – the most important Turkish base outside its territory – precisely to support the fight against Al-Shabaab.

Atalayar_TurkSom base militar turca en Somalia
REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR - Turkish military officers parade during the opening ceremony of the Turkish military base in Mogadishu, Somalia 30 September 2017

The country has become one of the entry points with which Turkey tries to influence the Horn of Africa, although this time it does it by supporting the aid and investment in infrastructures, unlike in other countries, for example, Libya, where the military role is the central axis of the collaboration.

The presence of Turkish civilians is so important that this is not the first time they have fallen victim to Al-Shabaab attacks. One year ago, another car bomb attack left 15 injured also in the city of Afgoye, among them several Turkish nationals. Also in the attack in Mogadishu in December 2019, a group of Turkish engineers fell victim to the attack that left more than 90 dead.

Somalia is therefore a new theatre of operations for some nearby regional powers. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey are striving to be the main allies of the Somali government in its fight against Al-Shabaab and in its quest to continue with its development.