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Bundled in parkas, scarves and wool stocking caps to stave off a biting January chill, hundreds of East African immigrants gathered in a snowy Burnsville cemetery Friday to remember three of their own who were shot to death in a south Minneapolis market two nights before.
With police still searching for their killers, cousins Abdifatah and Mohamed Warfa were laid to rest side by side along with Anwar Mohammed in a frozen patch of earth overlooking the scenic Minnesota River Valley.
The men were shot to death about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Seward Market and Halal Meats, on the corner of E. Franklin and 25th Avenues. Police weren't certain what prompted the crime but were searching for at least two suspects, both believed to be Somali.
"There are no words to describe the agony and pain we are feeling," Abdi Mohamed, a cousin of the Warfas, said at the gravesite.
Minutes before, clusters of men hoisted caskets covered in colorful shrouds and carried the bodies from hearses down an icy and winding path to their final resting place. As they walked, they chanted "la illaha illAllah," an Arabic prayer.
Hours earlier, more than 300 people had gathered at a mosque in Burnsville to pray and mourn. At times, the scene was deeply emotional, filled with sad eyes and many tears.
Moments before the prayer began, an elderly relative of Anwar Mohammed sobbed uncontrollably outside the mosque. Anwar's eldest brother, Fethi Mohammed, wrapped the woman in his arms and tried to console her.
A short time later, Bisharo Ugas, wife of Mohamed Warfa, fainted and was carried by several men from the mosque's main prayer hall to a back room to get some air. Paramedics soon arrived and took her by ambulance to a local hospital, where she was given fluids after not eating or drinking for the past two days.
"What remains in the grave is [a man's] deeds," a prayer leader told worshipers during the service. "We have to prepare and do good deeds in the lifetime that we have. This incident, which is very painful, we ask Allah to take all of them to Jinnah [heaven]."
Many of the mourners struggled Friday to comprehend how three refugees who had worked and strived to build new lives in America could be gunned down in their prime.
Anwar Mohammed was just 31, a refugee from Oromia in Ethiopia and a U.S. citizen who parked cars in downtown Minneapolis. He married a woman in Ethiopia a year ago and was refurnishing his apartment, which he hoped to soon share with his wife, at the time he was killed. He had stopped at the market Wednesday night to buy some groceries and a calling card to phone his wife.
Mohamed Warfa, also known as Mahad, also was in his early 30s. He was a husband and father of four who lived in Savage and worked an assembly line for a company in Burnsville. The night he was killed, he was bringing a cup of Somali tea to his cousin, Abdifatah, who was working behind the counter at the market.
Abdifatah Warfa, who was also known as Osman Elmi, was 28 and single. He had been in the United States for about six years and had worked the past few years at the Seward Market, owned by his brother Faysal Warfa. He became a U.S. citizen only a few months ago.
"We lost [three] young guys who were trying to establish their American dreams," Abdi Mohamed said. "Right now, we are focused on the hope that we will get the people who are behind this. We hope this will not become one of those unsolved cases. That's our only hope."
After the funeral, Mohamed urged members of the East African community, and particularly local Somalis, to come forward with any information they might have to help investigators make an arrest and solve the case.
"There has to come a time when we say 'Enough is enough,'" he said.