MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Gunmen shot and killed a Somali-American from Minnesota who had left a well-paying job in the U.S. to help the fledgling city government in Mogadishu, an official and relative said Wednesday.
Abdullahi Ali Anshur, 60, was an engineer helping the Mogadishu government with urban planning and drainage systems. He was killed after armed militants from the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab stopped his vehicle and sprayed it with bullets on Monday, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said.
Anshur was buried in Mogadishu on Wednesday. He had left his work in Minnesota to help Mogadishu’s municipal government, said a relative who insisted on anonymity for security reasons. Anshur had held a similar job in Mogadishu more than two decades ago before the Somali government collapsed in the early 1990s.
His daughter in Minnesota, Maryan Ali, said she had just communicated with her father over the weekend, and he told her things were going well. He traveled for work frequently, and was heading from Kenya to Mogadishu.
She said her dad was a noble man, with a kind heart, who worked hard to help whomever he could.
“He always encouraged us to work hard and to help whoever you can help … especially your community to better ourselves. He was a great mentor.”
Many Somalis who fled the country’s chaos for the U.S. and Europe have recently returned to Mogadishu to use their expertise to help the country move past decades of war and Anshur’s killing has sent shock waves through that community. One British-Somali man who returned to Mogadishu to open a cafe called Anshur’s death discouraging.
“Insecurity is the biggest threat for now,” said Ahmed Mohamed.
A Somali-American in Mogadishu, Hussein Ali, said such attacks leave U.S. and European Somalis scared and disappointed. “It makes many of us contemplate leaving Mogadishu,” he said.
Ali said her father got his bachelor’s degree at the University of Somalia, then got a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in the U.S. He graduated from California State University, Fresno, in the mid-1980s, then went back to Somalia to work until the civil war broke out, Ali said.
He managed a public housing unit in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was well-known in Minnesota’s large Somali community. He returned to Mogadishu last year.
“What happened to my dad was such a shock to us,” Ali said. “We would never have expected something like that. Life surprises you.”
Al-Shabab, an ultra-conservative Islamic militant group that wants to run Somalia by its strict interpretation of Shariah law, once ruled nearly all of Mogadishu. The group was forced out of the capital in 2011 but continues to carry out insurgent attacks and targeted murders.
In a separate incident, armed assailants shot and killed a freelance journalist in the central Somali town of Galkayo on Tuesday evening. Three journalists have been murdered in targeted killings this year, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists, which condemned the shooting. Journalists face attacks by al-Shabab, government figures and powerful businessmen, the group said.
Ali said many people like her father believe rebuilding Somalia is worth the risk.
“They do what they feel like they can do to help rebuild that country to how it used to be, or maybe even better,” Ali said. “That’s the motivation for everybody — don’t just sit around, if you want change to happen, you’ve got to get up and do something.”