Somalia: Al-Shabaab’s Expanding Anti-Turkish Campaign

Somalia: Al-Shabaab’s Expanding Anti-Turkish Campaign
A turkish soldier at their base in Mogadishu

Somalilandsun: On 18 January, al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab conducted a suicide bombing outside a Turkish military base in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu, killing at least four people and injuring around 14 others (Garowe Online, 19 January). The group claimed responsibility for the attack through the official Shahada News Agency and touted the success of the operation against “Somali Special Forces who were trained by Turkish Forces.” Al-Shabaab’s target selection, and the three separate mentions of Turkey in the statement, run consistent with the group’s ongoing guerilla campaign against Turkish soldiers, nationals, and commercial interests in Somalia. The group views Turkey as an influential supporter of the Somalian government and looks to drive the Turks out of Somalia with force. Al-Shabaab has accordingly excoriated Turkish troops stationed in Somalia as foreign “invaders” and “occupiers” (Ahval News, 31 December 2019).
Al-Shabaab Leadership Declares War on Turkey

Over the past decade, Turkey has markedly expanded its political influence and security footprint in Somalia, as indicated by the 2017 establishment of its largest overseas military installation in Mogadishu (Terrorism Monitor, 15 May 2020). Camp TURKSOM is a base and an academy intended to improve the Somali military’s operational capacities and counter-insurgency capabilities. This, in turn, has also made it a priority target for Al-Shabaab plots and attacks. Al-Shabaab’s anti-Turkey campaign began around July 2013 with a vehicle-borne improvised explosives device (VBIED) attack against the Turkish embassy in Mogadishu, which killed three people and injured several others (Hiiraan Online, 27 July 2013). Days after the bombing, Ahmed Abdi Godane, the group’s emir at the time, reportedly criticised Turkey for “trying to divide [Al-Shabaab’s] leadership and its fighters.” It further alleged that “countries like Qatar and Turkey as well as former members of the defunct Union of the Islamic Courts (a movement that ruled most of Somalia’s southern and central regions in 2006) are key players in these divisive deeds” (Salaan Media, 31 July 2013).

The anti-Turkish hostility continued to accelerate as Godane’s successor, Ahmed Diriye, took direct aim at Turkey in his first audio statement after stepping into Al-Shabaab’s top leadership role. In 2016, Diriye declared the Turkish government to be “the enemy of the nation” and accused Turkey of “looting Somali resources.” He asserted that “today Somalia’s economy is in total collapse because of their intervention. … Turkey has invaded this country economically. … They have taken control of the Somali economy, and all they want is to keep the nation in poverty” (Daily Sabah, July 13, 2016). More recently, in a March 2021 video published by Al-Shabaab’s official Al-Kataib Foundation for Media Productions, Diriye chastised the “apostate troops” of Turkey for supporting the “coalition of disbelievers who came from various countries” to wage “a war against the Muslims of Somalia” (Jihadology, 27 March 2021

Al-Shabaab Targets Turkish Nationals
For the past decade, Al-Shabaab has been pursuing a campaign of violence aimed at Turkish politicians, diplomats, soldiers, and workers in Somalia. Notably, in 2015, the group conducted a suicide car bombing outside of the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu. At the time, Turkish delegates were meeting in preparation for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit, which was scheduled for the next day (Som Tribune, 22 January 2015). Al-Shabaab’s militant operations against Turkish nationals and interests had been conducted entirely on land until 2 February  2016, when the group dispatched a suicide bomber and attempted to take down a passenger plane. The original target was a Turkish Airlines flight, but its departure was cancelled due to poor weather conditions……

Source Terrorism Monitor