Ankara had security concerns before al-Shabab attack

Ankara had security concerns before al-Shabab attack

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ankara had security concerns before al-Shabab attack

Deputy PM Bozdağ visits an injured personel in attack on Turkish officials. AA photo

Ankara had been anxious for some time with the worry that Turkish officials could be targeted by al-Shabaab in Somalia due to Turkey’s engagement in efforts for the political restructuring of the country and to provide humanitarian aid to the Somali people.

Previous attacks against the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) and Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) officials in Somalia were indications of such a threat, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

An officer from the TIKA was injured on October 2012 in clashes between two groups in Galkayo city in Somalia.

In April, several Somalis were killed and three Turkish officers injured when a humanitarian convoy of Kızılay was hit in a bomb attack by al-Shabaab in Mogadishu. The attack came at a time when Somali President Sheikh Hassan Mohamud was in Ankara for a summit with the president of the autonomous region of Somaliland Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, led under the Turkish mediation, to bring together the two states.

After the attack, Turkey increased the number of its security personnel in Somalia.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab espouses a strict form of Islam and has long been threatening Turkish workers and aid agencies in Somalia accusing them of spreading secularism as “a stooge of the West.”
Turkey has launched a major diplomatic, economic and humanitarian push in war-torn Somalia, becoming one of the very few nations to set up an embassy in the capital, after members of al-Shabab were chased out of the city in 2011.

Since then, Turkey has been flooding Mogadishu with hundreds of development and aid workers, as well as opening schools, improving sanitation, repairing roads and the city’s airport.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, for his part, said this was the first ever attack which directly targeted Turks. Noting that Turkish nationals had been harmed in similar attacks in the past, Bozdağ, however, underlined that Turks were not the primary target in those attacks. He vowed to continue aid efforts to Somalia.

On the other hand, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials have dismissed the possibility that a visit by Salih Muslim, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party’s (PYD), a group of Syrian Kurds, to Istanbul could have been a reason for the recent attack by al-Shabaab. The PYD has been in clashes with the al-Nusra Front of Syria, an al-Qaeda affiliate group, which Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized recently for harming the “Syrian revolution.”

Harshly critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) foreign policy, the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Deputy Chair Erdoğan Toprak, meanwhile, asserted that politics which was not based on science, reason and negotiation was destined to collapse.

“The AKP’s charisma balloon in the Middle East has exploded,” Toprak said.

Foreign Minister Davutoğlu was due to visit police officers who were wounded in the attack against the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu and who have been treated at the Atatürk Training and Research Hospital.

A car loaded with explosives rammed into the gates of a compound of the Turkish embassy in the Somali capital on July 27, killing a Turkish Special Forces officer, and injuring three others. Al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack.