June 15, 2021
At least 10 people were killed in the latest attack on a training site that is jointly run by Turkish forces.
A Somali soldier who was injured in a suicide bombing attack at a military base leaving a hospital in Mogadishu on Tuesday. Feisal Omar/Reuters
By Hussein Mohamed and Megan Specia | The New York Times
MOGADISHU – At least 10 people were killed and 20 wounded in an attack on a Somali Army training camp where new recruits were gathering on Tuesday morning, the authorities said, the latest in a series of assaults targeting the site, which is jointly run by Turkish and local forces.
Brig. Gen. Odowa Yusuf Raage, Somalia’s army chief, attributed the attack to the Shabab militant group. He said a suicide bomber had set off an explosion as dozens of new recruits lined up for military enrollment.
“Ten people seeking to join the new army recruits were killed and 20 others wounded when a terrorist suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of General Dhagabadan army training center in Mogadishu,” he told the state news media, referring to the intake area where troops are processed before being brought to the main facility, known as Camp Turksom.
Al Shabab later claimed responsibility for the attack, citing a much higher death toll of 40. The militant group often carries out suicide attacks in Somalia and has targeted Camp Turksom several times before.
The facility, which opened in 2017, is a major recruitment site for the Somali military. Turkey has invested heavily in Somalia in recent years in a bid for influence in the Horn of Africa, pouring in funding for both humanitarian aid and for military support of government forces.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey first visited Mogadishu, the Somali capital, in 2011 during a devastating famine — which Ankara proudly points to as the first time in two decades that a non-African leader had visited the city.
Mehmet Yilmaz, Turkey’s ambassador to Mogadishu, told the state-run Anadolu Agency last year that Turkey had trained about one-third of Somalia’s military forces.
President Donald J. Trump, in one of his final acts in office, in December ordered the remaining 700 United States troops who were training and advising the Somalis in the battle against Al Shabab to leave, prompting fears that the country’s security crisis would deepen.
With that withdrawal of American troops completed this year, the Turkish base has taken on increasing importance for the Somali military’s training operations. It has also increasingly been a target of Al Shabab.
The latest attack came as political tensions that have simmered in the country for months seemed to be easing in recent weeks, after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed dropped a divisive bid last month to extend his term in office. Elections are scheduled to be held by next month.
It also came just days after the families of missing soldiers protested in Mogadishu to demand answers from the federal government on their whereabouts following a report by the United Nations human rights body saying that Somali army forces had fought in the Tigray region of Ethiopia with Eritrean troops.
Late last year, the Ethiopian government launched an offensive in Tigray, and forces from neighboring Eritrea soon became involved in support. The report indicates that Somali forces that had been sent to Eritrea to train were also pulled into the fight.
According to the report, a top U.N. official “received information and reports that Somali soldiers were moved from military training camps in Eritrea to the front line in Tigray, where they accompanied Eritrean troops as they crossed the Ethiopian border.”
Somalia’s government denied the participation of Somali soldiers in the Tigray conflict, but a parliamentary committee has demanded an explanation from the president.
The government said last week that it had appointed a committee to investigate whether Somali troops had moved into Tigray.
Hussein Mohamed reported from Mogadishu, and Megan Specia from London.