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Continued: Fire chief, CenterPoint Energy clash over natural gas as cause of Cedar-Riverside blast

The fire also displaced the Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah mosque and the Islamic Civic Society of America from their building that wraps around the destroyed grocery-apartment building. Basim Sabri, who renovated the mosque building, estimated that it will be unusable for six months.

The building reeked of smoke and had broken glass on the floor as mosque leaders led U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., through the building. “I’ve been in this building many times,” said Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress. “It’s really tragic because I feel like I’m a part of that mosque a little bit.”

Sabri said that although water was 28 inches deep in the basement of the mosque and mechanical systems were damaged, it appeared that the building sustained no structural damage. The mosque said that Friday prayers will be held at the nearby Brian Coyle Community Center. Sabri has offered space in one of his buildings on E. Lake Street, and Rabbi Michael Adam Latz of Shir Tikvah synagogue said that “we would be delighted to welcome them into our space.” Latz and Mohamed met on Mayor Betsy Hodges’ transition advisory committee. The mosque’s board will decide on where to hold prayers.

“The firefighters did a great job,” said Wali Dirie, executive director of the mosque and society. “They kept the fire from reaching our building.”

‘A Minnesota tragedy’

The area’s City Council member-elect, Abdi Warsame, appeared with officials at an afternoon news briefing. “This is a Minneapolis tragedy. This is a Minnesota tragedy. This is not just an East African tragedy. This is not just a Cedar-Riverside tragedy,” he said. Hodges, elected in November over firefighter union opposition, extended an olive branch. “I’m am grateful that we have such people taking care of our community,” she said.

The Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota said it had opened a Wells Fargo Bank account to aid victims and their families. More information will be available on the organization’s website at

Confederation Director Mohamud Noor said that Sherman Associates has offered interim housing for victims in unoccupied units of its Riverside Plaza, which towers beside the ruined building. Augsburg College and the Cedar Cultural Center are organizing a benefit concert at the Cedar, just down Cedar Avenue from the building, for Jan. 24, according to a college spokeswoman.

The destroyed building was built in 1886, the same year as former West Bank landmark Dania Hall, just 200 feet away and also erased by fire in 2000.


Staff writer Rochelle Olson contributed to this report. • 612-673-4438 • 612-673-4224 • 612-673-4482


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