Turkish carrier to start direct Mogadishu flights in March By ABDULKADIR KHALIF in Mogadishu | Thursday, February 16  2012 at  11:43

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left). National flag carrier Turkis Airlines is set to begin direct flights to Mogadishu in March. PHOTO | FILE 

Turkey's national carrier is set to begin direct flights to the battle-ravaged Somali capital of Mogadishu as it looks to ratchet up its growing engagement with the Horn of Africa country.

The flights begin March 6, Turkish Ambassador to Mogadishu Kani Torun said Wednesday in what is another step in the reconstruction of Somalia.

“The direct flights will shuttle between Mogadishu and Istanbul,” said Dr Torun, noting that the Turkish flag carrier flies to 146 destinations globally.

“Such a huge network will facilitate Diaspora Somalis flying home," he said.

According to the ambassador, Turkish deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag and other government officials are expected to officially launch the flights.

Mr Bozdag visits Somalia periodically to supervise projects assisted or implemented by Turkish agencies.

In December Turkey officials and experts unveiled a plan to modernise Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport.

They are setting up a modern control tower to monitor Somalia's skies.

Mr Aydin Sarik, the head of the Turkish team, told the local media then that Turkish planes would start flights to Mogadishu after the airport’s infrastructure and systems were raised to international standards.

"It will ease the delivery of humanitarian assistance and development aid," he said.

During a visit to Mogadishu in August, Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to implement multiple projects in Somalia, including infrastructure and social services.

Turkey has provided huge humanitarian relief to Somalia especially since a drought begun last year, earning the criticism of Al-Shabaab, the militant group fighting to control the government.