Somali community mourns victims of suicide bombing
Members of Ottawa’s Somali community are mourning the death of a Somali member of Parliament and wounding of a former community leader following a suicide bombing in the central Somali town of Dusamareb on Tuesday.
Ahmed Abdisalaam Haaji Adan, a former Ottawa resident, was wounded in the attack and is reported to be in hospital, although the extent of his injuries cannot be confirmed. He was in Dusamareb as part of a delegation of members of the Somali parliament and other officials negotiating political reforms in the region of Galgadud.
Several lawmakers were killed in the blast, including Abdiwali aw Mohamoud, a British man with close ties to Ottawa. According to several sources, aw Mohamoud is the brother of Hamdi Mohamed, executive director of local settlement agency OCISO, and Hindia Mohamoud, director of the Ottawa Local Immigrant Partnership.
The town of Dusamareb, 560 kilometres north of Mogadishu, has been under the control of a pro-government militia for several years. Fighters with al-Shabaab, the Islamic militant group with links to al-Quaeda, have seized the town briefly on several occasions, as recently as March.
Eyewitness accounts suggest the suicide bomber detonated explosives after sitting down to chat with the delegation in a hotel café. An al-Shabaab spokesman for military operations claimed responsibility for the attack in Dusamareb and also for a car bomb Tuesday in Mogadishu that killed at least one man.
Adan is one of three Somali-Canadians who returned to Somalia to found Horn Afrik Radio in 1999, to give a voice to ordinary people caught up in the civil war. The independent broadcaster in Mogadishu won the International Press Freedom Award from the Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression in 2002. Another of the three, Ali Sharmaarke, was killed by a roadside bomb in 2007. Horn Afrik was later forced to suspend operations by al-Shabaab, according to the third founder, Mohamed Elmi. He still lives in Ottawa, as do Adan’s children.
Adan went to Dusamareb “as part of a delegation to arrange peace in that region, a peace-building mission,” said Elmi, who owns the Sambuza Village restaurant on Bank Street. “I’m assuming they had some security arrangements, but it’s very difficult to be safe in that environment.”
Ahmed Hussen, national president of the Canadian Somali Congress, doesn’t know Adan personally but says many Canadians are familiar with his role in building peace in Somalia.
“He has done a lot of reconciliation work, negotiating between various factions,” said Hussen. “He headed the government delegation that concluded peace agreements between the defeated Islamic Courts and the transitional government at the end of 2008, which resulted in this current government. He became the deputy prime minister and later left to do some work on strengthening civil society.”
Hussen believes al-Shabaab targeted the delegation in part because Adan was there.
“He is a threat because he has worked a lot on reconciliation and he’s very influential. They were afraid that he was being really effective on the ground in bringing people into the fold, away from the Shabaab.”
While suicide bombers sent by al-Shabaab militants have struck government targets and African Union troops in Mogadishu often in recent years, such attacks are rare in Galgadud.
With files from Reuters
The Ottawa Citizen