MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Turkish Airlines started flying into Somalia's war-torn capital Tuesday, becoming the first international company to fly passenger planes into Mogadishu in more than 20 years.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag announced the development as he arrived in Mogadishu on the first Turkish national flag carrier flight from Turkey's Ataturk airport.
"After 20 years of a lack of international flights to Europe, Asia and America, the Turkish government has facilitated for the Somalis to travel by Turkish Airlines to the world again," Bozdag said. "Somalia will restore its lost international air lane again with the help of the Turkish government."
Turkish Airlines is scheduled to fly to Mogadishu twice a week.
"We thank our Turkish brothers for the assistance and we receive it with an open heart" said Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Civil war and insurgency have forced international airlines to shy away from flying into the Horn of Africa nation. Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991.
Mogadishu has long been a battleground during Somalia's civil war. But al-Shabab withdrew from most of its bases in August and recent pushes by the African Union and Somali troops have helped bring partial security to more of the city.