The new leader of the al-Shabaab militant group has used his first propaganda release to threaten Turkey – the first time the country has been explicitly mentioned by the hardline Somali rebels, Anadolu Agency reported.
Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah released the 45-minute audio speech on Tuesday, his first communique since being appointed head of the al-Qaeda affiliate following his predecessor’s death in a U.S. drone strike.
Speaking in Somali, Abu Ubaidah says: “The nation of Turkey is the enemy of our nation. Our economy is in turmoil because of the ‘interference’ by Turkey in our affairs; they have control of [our] economy and their actions will leave us in poverty.”
The speech comes a month after Turkish leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, opened a large embassy in war-torn Somalia during an African tour.
Somalia which has been home to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since civil war broke out in the early 1990’s has received little help from world nations, though Turkey, in 2011, donated $350 million in humanitarian assistance.
In March this year, al-Shabaab militants opened fire on vehicles carrying doctors, killing two Turkish and three Somali medics.
The day before Erdogan visited Somalia in June, the militants blew up a vehicle near a hotel where Turkish delegates were meeting to finalize details of the president’s visit; two people were killed.
In 2013 al-Shabaab militants drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into a business premises housing the Turkish embassy staff; the attack – which was claimed by the rebel group – left three people dead.
Turkey’s involvement in Somalia started in 2011 when it sent emergency humanitarian aid following deaths caused by drought and famine in the country.
Since then, Turkey has played an intensive role in taking Somalia out of isolation by modernizing the region and rebuilding the country’s main airport in Mogadishu.
Development assistance was instrumental in helping rebuild Somali’s war-torn infrastructure and is facilitated by the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA). Turkey has also offered agricultural and fisheries support.