Al-Shabaab Continues Anti-Turkey Campaign in Somalia with Rocket Attack Claim
On July 28, al-Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency released a statement saying its fighters fired 10 rockets at Turkish armed forces in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The group has a history of targeting Turkish nationals in Somalia and has explicitly declared Turkey an enemy on various occasions.
Just months ago, in January of this year, al-Shabaab conducted a suicide bombing outside of a Turkish military base in the Somali capital, killing four people and injuring at least 14 others. Then, in March, al-Shabaab claimed a roadside bombing that injured four Turkish businessmen in Mogadishu, saying they were specifically targeting these foreign nationals.
As Turkey has expanded its footprint and influence in Somalia over the last decade, it has become a bigger target for jihadist guerillas in the area. In 2017, for instance, Turkey established its largest overseas military installation in Mogadishu. The base has since been periodically targeted by al-Shabaab fighters.
The increased focus on Turkish interests was perceptible around 2013 when al-Shabaab conducted a lethal vehicle-borne improvised explosives device (VBIED) attack against the Turkish embassy in Mogadishu. Just prior to the bombing, then-emir Ahmed Abdi Godane accused Turkey of trying to stoke divisions between al-Shabaab’s leadership and rank and file fighters.
Since the embassy bombing, al-Shabaab has been targeting Turkish political figures, diplomats, soldiers, and workers. In 2015, the group conducted a suicide car bombing outside the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu, where Turkish delegates were preparing for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s scheduled next-day visit.
Al-Shabaab tried to bring the fight to the air on February 2, 2016, when a suicide bomber was dispatched to take down a Turkish Airlines passenger plane. Due to poor weather conditions, the flight was canceled, and the operative ended up detonating onboard a Somali-operated Daallo Airlines plane. The attacker was the only one killed in the explosion, and the aircraft was successfully able to make an emergency landing. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility and told Al-Jazeera that the intended targets were Turkish NATO forces and Western officials.
Then, in December 2019, jihadists hit a convoy with a car bomb, killing two Turkish nationals. Ali Dhere, al-Shabaab’s spokesman, promised the group “will continue attacking Turks who invaded our country” and accused Turkey of wanting to take control of Somalia’s resources.
Ahmed Abdi Godane’s successor, Ahmed Diriye, declared Turkey “the enemy of the nation” and accused Ankara of “looting Somali resources.” He later complained that “today Somalia’s economy is in total collapse because of their intervention,” claiming “Turkey has invaded this country economically” and has “taken control of the Somali economy and all they want is to keep the nation in poverty.”
The group has continued its hostile rhetoric against Turkey, and, in a March 2021 video published by al-Shabaab’s official Al-Kataib Foundation for Media Productions, Diriye scorned the “apostate troops” of Turkey, lumping them in with the “coalition of disbelievers who came from various countries” to wage “a war against the Muslims of Somalia.”
The Turkish base in Somalia was targeted with rockets in May 2018 and suicide bombings in both June 2020 and January 2022. Additionally, an al-Shabaab suicide attack killed two Turkish workers involved in the construction of a road from Mogadishu to Afgoye on January 2, 2021.
Given al-Shabaab’s continued hostile rhetoric and occasional attacks, it is likely the group will continue to target Turkish interests in the region, as jihadists view Turkey as exploiting national resources and its soldiers as foreign occupiers.