Police Say Suicide Attack in Somalia Targeted Turkish Government Convoy
MOGADISHU, Somalia—A suicide car bomber killed at least six people in Somalia’s capital on Thursday police said, in an attack apparently aimed at a Turkish government convoy in town ahead of a presidential visit.
The strike came the day before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due to visit the turbulent East African country. Turkey has invested heavily in Somalia’s infrastructure, betting the projects could help guide an economic turnaround for the volatile nation.
The militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the group, said they specifically targeted Turkish officials.
A car loaded with explosives rammed a convoy transporting Turkish foreign ministry officials around 2:45 p.m. local time, according to Somali police spokesman Col. Qasim Roble. He said five Somali policemen, one civilian and the attacker were killed. No Turkish nationals were among the fatalities, he said.
The attack occurred at the front gate of a new hotel near the presidential compound called SYL, home to number of Somali government ministers and visiting foreign diplomats, including members of the Turkish delegation currently in Mogadishu. The Turkish president was scheduled to visit the hotel on Friday.
“It was a barbaric attack and it will not frighten us from going forward,” Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid said after visiting the site.
A Somali minister who was inside the hotel at the time of the attack said the explosion ripped through the front entrance of the hotel.
“I am safe but I can see dead bodies, and the wall of the front gate of my hotel is totally down,” said Mohamed Muktar, the minister for fisheries and marine resources.
Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara was investigating whether the blast was a deliberate attack on the country’s interests, but insisted Mr. Erdogan would press ahead with plans to visit the Somali capital. A Turkish presidential official said they would not share any details of Mr. Erdogan’s program for security reasons. Mr. Erdogan is currently in Ethiopia at the start of a three-day tour of the Horn of Africa.
“Whether or not it was targeting us is not yet clear,” Mr. Davutoglu said. “When we last visited [Somalia] the situation was difficult, but we are determined to remain committed to Africa despite the risks.”
Mr. Erdogan became the first non-African leader to visit war-torn Somalia in almost two decades when he traveled there in 2011.
Thursday’s blast came hours after Turkish media reported that Mogadishu had been “locked down” ahead of the visit, with a key highways linking the airport to the city center sealed off. Turkish officials said Mr. Erdogan was planning to visit several projects in the capital funded by Turkish aid, including a new airport, sea port and a new hospital.
—Heidi Vogt in Nairobi, Kenya and Joe Parkinson in Instanbul, Turkey contributed to this article.