Turkey's Bayraktar TB2 drones being used in Al-Shabaab war
MOGADISHU, Somalia - New technology is being deployed in the fight against Al-Shabaab, with Turkish drones Bayraktar TB2 being used to target the militants, who still control large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia, in the latest survey unearthed by experts.
Last week, Somalia confirmed that the drones manufactured in Turkey were being used, with their origin being Baykar company which has strong ties with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's family, are now active in Somalia.
Previously, it was the United States army under the African Command leadership that has been using drones against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. The US has been helping the country pursue the Al-Shabaab militants.
Speaking in a town hall discussion, Somalia's newly appointed interior minister, Ahmed Malim Fiqi, said Turkey's drones are providing aerial combat and military reconnaissance to neutralize one of Africa's deadliest militant groups amid a clan uprising against al-Shabab in central Somalia.
"The US government is leading, and we really appreciate that they are providing air support and carrying [out] air strikes against the terror group... but the Turkish government has also joined the offensive and is providing air support. Many other countries are also providing intelligence-gathering support," Fiqi said.
Somalia commanders are, however, involved in providing coordinates so that the drones avoid innocent civilians. The Al-Shabaab is also believed to be using drones whose origin is in the Middle East but the manufacturing country is yet to be established.
"Turkey has been hugely involved in Somalia security and humanitarian affairs, but the [introduction of combat] drones is new," Abdisalam Guleyd, a security analyst and former Somalia deputy spy chief, told Middle East Eye.
"My understanding is that surveillance drones have been in the country for a while, but during his visit to Ankara, [newly elected] President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud asked the Turkish government to support his efforts against the militants militarily, but differently this time, and that could be the reason," he said, adding that he believes the Turkish involvement will be more significant than that of the US given Ankara's strong military presence in the country.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud highlighted the Bayraktar TB2 drones' proven track record in conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh, and most recently in the Russia-Ukraine war, where they have been deployed by Ukrainian forces.
"If you look at the limited US air strike in Somalia, it has significantly reduced the group's military activities over the years, but, if Turkish drones are fully involved, I think it would change the war, given the nature of Turkey's military strategy in other conflicts in recent years."
Turkey's move to provide air support to Somalia's war has not come as a surprise, given Ankara's immense military presence in the country and its efforts to increase its foothold in the Horn of Africa.
"Its role in Somalia, West Africa, and, more recently, its military engagement in Libya clearly shows that Turkey wants to expand its influence across the continent," Ibrahim Bachir Abdoulaye, a researcher on Turkey-Africa relations at the German University of Bayreuth, told MEE in October 2021.
The country is currently pursuing Al-Shabaab militants, especially in Central and Southern regions, with the military reportedly making gains. Al-Shabaab militants have been fighting to control the country, but the military has stood its ground to degrade the team.