MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Turkey's president opened a new Turkish embassy in Somalia's capital on Friday amid heavy security less than two days after Islamic extremists attacked a hotel in the city, killing 15 people.
The al-Shabab group, which is waging an insurgency against Somalia's weak government, has claimed responsibility for the assault on the Ambassador Hotel in Mogadishu.
This is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's third visit to Somalia. He is the only non-African president to visit war-ravaged Somalia in decades. Erdogan visited Somalia last year, a day after al-Shabab attacked a hotel hosting Turkish delegates and killed at least six people.
On Friday, Erdogan cut a ribbon to the new beachfront Turkish embassy in Mogadishu, calling it the largest and most advanced Turkish embassy in Africa.
"Somalia is an important ally for us," said Erdogan. "I can see a remarkable change here since my first visit in 2011. I hope Somalia will hold a free and fair election," he said of Somalia's planned polls, scheduled for August. He added he will return to Somalia again to open a polytechnic school and a $400 million military training camp that are now under construction. He added that Turkey will send humanitarian aid to Somalia and Ethiopia, especially drought-affected areas in Puntland, Somaliland and Ethiopia.
During Erdogan's visit to Mogadishu, officials signed several new development agreements.
Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud praised Turkey's support, saying that it attests to how the Turkish government is committed to helping Somalia recover from decades of war.
The Turkish president visited Kenya and Uganda before coming to Mogadishu. Erdogan has been trying to raise Turkey's influence in Africa, especially in the continent's Muslim countries. Turkey has significantly stepped up trade with sub-Saharan nations in the past decade.
Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed.