MOGADISHU  : Turkey inaugurated on Saturday the largest foreign-run military training centre in Somalia, where local troops are due to take over the protection of a nation threatened by Shabaab attacks.

Somalia’s fragile government and institutions, including its national army, are backed by the African Union’s 22,000-strong AMISOM force and powers like the United States. But the gradual withdrawal of the AMISOM troops is due to start in October 2018 and doubts persist over the readiness of Somali forces to confront the Qaeda-aligned Shabaab.

In the meantime, training of the Somali army is handled primarily by foreign powers like the US, Kenya, Great Britain and the UAE. About 200 Turkish soldiers and trainers will be stationed at the centre. “This academy is quite different because the Turkish will train the forces and equip them with their military hardware so that they will not be left alone after the training”, Somali Gen Ahmed Mohamed Jimale said during the ceremony.

About 1,500 Somali soldiers can be trained there at a time, making it the largest foreign-run military training centre in the country.

“We thank the Turkish government people and their government for standing up to help our country, this academy is opened at a time when we dearly need it,” Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said.

The Shabaab have been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia since 2007.

It was pushed out of the capital in August 2011 and lost most of its other bastions in Somalia.

But the Shabaab still control vast swathes of countryside, from where they launch guerilla operations and suicide attacks against the capital and against local and international military bases.