Turkey has donated 22 military vehicles to Somalia, comprising of eight Kirpi Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and 14 military trucks to help stabilize the country that has been ravaged by war and political instability since 1991.
The vehicles were handed over to officials of the Somali Defense Ministry and Gen. Odowaa Yusuf Rage, head of the Somali National Armed Forces, in the capital Mogadishu on Sunday evening.
The MRAPs will be used by Somalia’s elite Gorgor Commandos in the fight against the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Turkish Ambassador Mehmet Yilmaz and military officials attended the ceremony.
“Glad to participate in the handover ceremony of 8 fully armored Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected ‘Kirpi’ military vehicles and 14 military trucks donated by Turkey to Somali National Army,” the Turkish envoy said in a media statement.
The donation is part of Turkeys drive to increase its influence in the region dominated by the United States and China.
In the same vein, Turkey donated 12 Kirpi armored vehicle and utility trucks to Somalia last year August, stating at the time that the military vehicles were delivered to Somalia as part of bilateral military and financial cooperation agreements.
In 2017, Turkey and Somalia signed a wide-ranging military partnership deal that led to Turkey opening it’s biggest external military base in Mogadishu.
Turkish forces have also been training Somali soldiers in Mogadishu and Turkey, the SNA force is undergoing training at the Counter-Terrorism Training and Exercise Centre in Isparta province which began in December last year.
The 15th batch of Somalia’s Haramcad Special Forces completed their training by Turkish personnel at the TURKSOM Military Training Center, the Turkish Embassy said in another tweet on Sunday.
Ankara’s close relationship with Somalia is nothing new. The country has been a major source of aid to Somalia ever since 2011 when Erdogan visited the famine-gripped country.
Following Somalia’s invitation to Turkey to explore for oil in its seas last October, Recep Tayyip has set it’s sight in the Horn of Africa, hoping to benefit from Somalia’s potential energy reserves.
BMC KIRPI MRAP
The KIRPI MRAP is manufactured by Turkish commercial and military vehicle manufacturer BMC Otomotiv Sanayi ve Ticaret.
BMC Kirpi MRAP can be armed with a 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun. A remote-controlled weapons system can be integrated into the vehicle but images of those donated to Somalia does not appear to be armed.
The vehicle offers protection from armour-piercing rounds, mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other ballistic threats up to STANAG 4569 Level 3.
In Africa, Tunisia ordered 100 armoured vehicles in 2014, this becoming the first export customer of the BMC Kirpi.
Turkey also supplied a number of the vehicle to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), Dozens of the vehicles were observed offloading from a ship, the shipment was through a vessel named “Amazon” that is registered in Moldova.
Several of the vehicles were captured by the forces of the Libyan National Army, and they were reported to be of poor quality after the vehicle was subjected to rigorous test in Libya.