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At least two staff of Turkey-based aid group killed in explosion in Somalia

Turkey-based humanitarian organization says it was targeted deliberately.
A view from a hotel roof top of downtown Mogadishu close to the site of a double truck bombs in early November in Mogadishu on November 10, 2022.

ANKARA — At least two people, including one Turkish national aid worker, were killed when the vehicle they were in detonated a landmine in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Thursday.

Islamist insurgency group Al-Shabab took responsibility for the attack in a statement shared on a Telegram group, claiming seven fatalities, including two Turkish nationals. The statement also claimed responsibility for a separate deadly armed raid against Somali officials, also in Mogadishu. 

Ankara-based relief organization Verenel announced that the vehicle was carrying the organization's aid workers. The organization identified one of the victims who died in the blast as Abdurrahim Yoruk, Verenel’s Somalia representative.

In its statement, Verenel said that the attack deliberately targeted the organization’s vehicle. “Our team with the Verenel Organization, who were conducting humanitarian aid activities in Somalia, were targeted in a bomb attack on April 4, 2024, at 11:30 a.m.,” the statement read. The organization wasn’t reachable as of this writing.

Turkey's public broadcaster, TRT, identified the second victim as a Somali national and reported that two other Somali nationals were wounded in the attack.

But the private news agency Ihlas and local news reports put the death toll at four, including two Turkish nationals. 

Cagatay Cebe, a Turkey-based independent researcher who focuses on armed extremist groups, suggested that the militants could have confused the Turkish aid workers with Turkish military personnel, citing the extremist group's statement identifying two of the victims as "officers."

Turkey has been training Somali troops since 2017 to combat the Islamist insurgency. The country is also home to one of the largest Turkish military bases abroad. Under a deal signed between the two countries in February, the Turkish military will also support Somalia’s maritime security.

Al-Shabab's use of landmine attacks in Somalia is common. In September, three people, including a Somali lawmaker, were killed in the country’s north in a landmine explosion that authorities blamed on Al-Shabab, which is designated a terrorist group by the US government. A similar attack in July left at least eight people dead, including six children. 

Nationals of Turkey, which has a large military presence in Somalia, have also come under attack by Islamist militants. In 2014, Turkish national Saadettin Dogan, a security chief at a private company, was killed in an armed attack. At the time, both Turkish and Somali authorities blamed the attack on the Islamist jihadi group.

Adam Lucente contributed to this report from New York.