Tributes to Birmingham men who died in al-Shabab militant attack

  • In World
  • 2022-12-01 16:19:19Z
  • By BBC

Funeral prayers have been held for two Birmingham men who died during a siege on a Somali hotel.

Sheikh Abdulkaadir Abdullahi Ahmed, 54 and Mohamed Hassan Elmi, 53, were shot by al-Shabab militants who attacked Villa Ray in Mogadishu, said family.

Birmingham's Somali community gathered at the Arrahma Islamic Centre on Wednesday to pay their respects.

"The turn out was huge - people were deeply, deeply saddened," said Rahma Abdulkaadir Abdullahi, 22.

"There was nowhere to stand, there was nowhere to breathe. It felt like an Eid prayer," said Mr Elmi's son Usama, 26.

At least 14 people, including eight civilians, are known to have died during the attack on Sunday, said Somalian officials.

The Villa Rays hotel, situated close to the presidential palace and popular with government officials, lies in an area of the Somalian capital reputed to be secure.

The men were meeting with a government minister, said Mr Elmi's son Usama, 26, and targeted after escaping from a second floor window.

The family was trying to establish how the attack had been able to happen in "one of the most secure hotels in the country", he added.

Map of Mogadishu
Map of Mogadishu  

Mr Ahmed founded the Islamic Centre on Whitmore Road, Small Heath, in 2002 and also chaired the organisation, said his daughter Miss Abdullahi.

"He's always been dubbed a pillar of the Somali Muslim community in Birmingham," she added.

"He was a very pragmatic, positive person. He had a great sense of humour. He could always make a joke, even in the worst situations.

"He was witty, he was gleeful. He was just as person that everyone could turn to when they had problems."

Both men, who were cousins, were buried in Mogadishu, with the prayers held in their absence - a first for the Small Heath mosque.

Mr Elmi, who was also known as Sayid, had been invited to the hotel to discuss matters in the Gedo region where he owned land, said his son.

The 53-year-old, a "gentle giant" and Danish national who had lived in Birmingham since 2003, was "very close to his community" and on the mosque's management committee, added Mr Elmi.

"He was always smiling, always happy… anyone who needed help, he was always there," he said. "No one's got a bad word to say about him."

A third UK resident and relative, Jamaal Mahamed Ubahle from London, was also killed in the attack, said Mr Elmi.

Ambulance driving into hospital in Somalia
Ambulance driving into hospital in Somalia  

Al-Shabab has previously targeted hotels known to be frequented by government officials and foreigners.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the latest attack and called for the perpetrators to be held to account.

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