The first major commercial airline in more than two decades has landed at war-torn Somalia’s Mogadishu airport.
The maiden flight of Turkish Airlines, carrying a high-level delegation from Ankara led by Turkish deputy prime minister Bekir Bosdag, is the first to the Somali capital from outside East Africa.
It was welcomed on landing in Mogadishu Tuesday by Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, along with other Somali government figures as well as UN officials and ambassadors, the Agence France Presse reported. A group of women sang and danced as the plane touched down.
More from GlobalPost: Turkey makes presence known in Mogadishu
Turkish Airlines plans to run a twice-weekly passenger service from Istabul, via Sudan’s capital Khartoum. The idea was first mooted in October when the national carrier announced it would soon begin flights “subject to aircraft availability and flight safety evaluation.”
Somali government official Abdisalem Mohamud called the event “a big day for Somalia.”
“The deputy prime minister of Turkey has officially opened the operations of the international carrier,” Mohamud said.
Security was tight in the capital Tuesday, with all of the main roads leading to the airport blocked off ahead of the flight, according to the BBC.
Mogadishu residents interviewed by the AFP welcomed the airline’s arrival, which they hope will enable relatives in the big global Somali diaspora to return home to visit.
Tuesday’s flight follows a visit last summer by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said he wanted to destroy the notion that it was impossible to visit Mogadishu, kicking off an impressive diplomatic, humanitarian and investment push in Somalia.
The anarchic country has not had a functioning central government for more than 20 years, and has been torn apart from clan-based factional fighting.
More from GlobalPost: Old problems plague New India