Turkish Airlines Begins Flights to Somalia

Posted March 6th, 2012 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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Turkish Airlines has started flights to Somalia's capital, making it the first commercial carrier outside East Africa to fly there in more than two decades.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bosdag took the maiden flight from Turkey's Ataturk airport into Mogadishu on Tuesday.

After arriving in the conflict-ridden capital, Bosdag said Turkish Airlines has provided a way for Somalis to travel to the outside world again.

“Somalia will restore its lost international air lane again with the help of the Turkish government.''

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed expressed gratitude to Turkey.

“We thank our Turkish brothers for the assistance and we receive it with an open heart.”

Turkish Airlines is scheduled to fly to Mogadishu twice a week.

In August, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first non-African leader to visit Somalia in 20 years.

During that trip, Mr. Erdogan vowed to help Somalia lift itself from decades of chaos and conflict.

He promised to reopen Turkey's embassy in Mogadishu, help Somalia develop its infrastructure and promote business and educational opportunities.

Somalia has not had a stable central government since 1991. The U.N.-backed transitional government is currently fighting militant group al-Shabab, which controls parts of southern and central Somalia.

The country is also recovering from a severe drought and famine that displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis.

(( Video includes soundbite from Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in Somali (translation below):

Ahmed Act: “We really thank the Turkish government, which has helped our people during a time of suffering and today they have begun new international flights into Mogadishu and the rest of the world.''