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In Shock and Tears, Mogadishu Mourns Loss of Slain Mayor

FILE - Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman is pictured in Mogadishu, Somalia. The mayor died Aug. 1 of injuries suffered in a suicide bombing July 24.

Mogadishu residents are mourning the loss of their mayor, who died Thursday of injuries suffered in a suicide bombing July 24 that killed at least six other people.

Abdirahman Omar Osman, 53, simply known as "Injineer Yariisow," which translates from Somali as "the small engineer," was the highest-level Somali government official killed in the city's frequent deadly terrorist attacks in recent years.

With tears running down his face, Aden Osman stood motionless in front of Mogadishu's city headquarters, the place where the late mayor was targeted as he was meeting with senior officials of his administration on security.

"Indeed, the terrorists that killed our mayor made us feel a deep pain and sadness inside, but we cannot let them tear us down and make us demoralize," said Aden Osman, 21.

"The people of this city have lost a great man and a leader. We have been mourning for three days,” and flags will remain at half staff, Ibrahim Omar Mahadalle, deputy regional administrator of Mogadishu, told VOA Somali. "May Allah rest his soul in peace. He led this city by example."


Abdirahman Omar Osman fled from Somalia's civil war in 1990s. He lived in Britain for 17 years, where he became a naturalized British citizen.

Somalis in London who also mourned his death remembered him as a statesman.

Mahadalle, who first met Osman in London 15 years ago, described him as "a patriot, optimistic and brave man."

"Despite living in London, he was always busy with Somalia affairs and how his home country would return to its own legs," said Mahadalle

"Today the people of Mogadishu lose their mayor, but I lost my father. May Allah grant him the highest rank of paradise," Mohamed Omar, the late mayor's son and a student at London's Queen Mary University, tweeted as tribute to his father.

Hard worker

Politicians he worked with, close friends and colleagues described Osman as a hard worker.

Among the dozens of government jobs he held was adviser to former Prime Minister Abdiwali Ali Gas, who also was the Puntland regional leader.

"When I was the prime minister between 2011 and 2012, Osman was my adviser. I remember him as a humble man with more work and less talk," Gas said.

FILE - Abdirahman Omar Osman, center, and others celebrate after the first commercial flight by National Airways linking Addis Ababa to Mogadishu in 41 years landed in Mogadishu, Oct. 13, 2018. Mogadishu's mayor died Aug. 1.
FILE - Abdirahman Omar Osman, center, and others celebrate after the first commercial flight by National Airways linking Addis Ababa to Mogadishu in 41 years landed in Mogadishu, Oct. 13, 2018. Mogadishu's mayor died Aug. 1.

Husein Jabiri, a friend of the late mayor, said, "The loss of Osman hurts me. He was a close friend of mine. We worked together at the ministry of information. He was a sincere and hardworking leader. I pray to Allah to grant him eternal peace."

More grief, loss

The death of the influential mayor was not the only major source of grief for residents of Mogadishu, which has over 2.5 million residents and accounts for about one-quarter of the country's total population.

"For a city that has been struggling in defiance of lawlessness, deadly terror attacks and anarchy for nearly three decades, I think the death of its mayor meant to us only an addition of a salt to an already bleeding wound," said Yusuf Abdullahi, 26, a recent university graduate and Mogadishu resident.

Hotel and restaurant attacks and assassinations of government officials have been common occurrences in the city, but among the major terror attacks that always remain fresh in people's minds is the deadly hotel bombing in Mogadishu in December 2009 that killed at least 20 people, including three Somali Cabinet ministers.

In June 2011, Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan, the Somali interior minister, died in a hospital after a suicide attack at his home, apparently carried out by a niece.

In October 2011, the Islamic militant group al-Shabab used a truck bomb to kill more than 70 people, mainly young students waiting for exam results at the Education Ministry.

In October 2017, another militant truck bomb killed 587 people in the country's deadliest terrorist attack.

"People in this city have had enough of grief and losses of their loved ones, and the mayor's killing is another sadness," said Mogadishu University's Dr. Mohamed Isse Liban.

"Mogadishu saw a number of its great men and women being killed one after another in terror attacks. It seems as if people here wait for their death in an open graveyard," said Ahmed Abdi Hadi, a Mogadishu resident.

Funeral delayed

Mogadishu on Saturday began preparing to say its final goodbye to the mayor. About 100 prominent residents and officials gathered at the airport to await the return of Osman’s body from Doha, Qatar, where he had received treatment for his injuries. But government officials eventually told the crowd that the plane would not come until Sunday and that the mayor’s funeral had been delayed.

Investigation under way

Somali officials said the fatal attack was under investigation. The terrorist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia James Swan, an American citizen, who had met with the mayor last month.

Francisco Madeira, special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, and Swan both called for the arrest of Osman’s killers.

"As we come to terms with the passing of the mayor, terrorists should be aware that their cowardly attack will not break the people's resolve to forge ahead," Madeira said in a statement Thursday.

"He was a true friend and companion of AMISOM and supported, without reservation, our mandate to help usher in a stable, peaceful and prosperous Somalia," said the AU envoy.

Swan, the U.N. envoy, said, "His work must be continued, and those responsible must be brought to justice."