Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed

Khalil Senosi, Associated Press

Minnesota Somalis gathering to mourn former president

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH
  • Star Tribune
  • March 29, 2012 - 8:16 PM

Hundreds from Minnesota's Somali community are expected to attend a special memorial service Friday to remember a prominent political leader from their homeland.

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was president of Somalia's interim federal government from 2004 to 2008.

He died last week in Dubai at the age of 77 from pneumonia complications.

The Minneapolis service coincides with the visit of another prominent ex-leader of Somalia. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as "Farmajo," resigned as prime minister of Somalia last summer and is visiting Minnesota this weekend.

He is scheduled to speak at the service for Yusuf, which will take place from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Midtown YWCA, 2121 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis.

A controversial figure, Yusuf is credited with bringing Somalia's federal government center back to the capital of Mogadishu, with the help of the United Nations, for the first time since the civil war began in 1991. "He gets a lot of credit for daring to do that," said Abdirizak Bihi, a local activist.

But Yusuf also incensed many others for his decision to invite Ethiopian troops into the country to help fight an Islamic alliance that took control of Mogadishu in 2006. The Ethiopian advance quickly routed the Islamist forces, but the memories of previous Somali-Ethiopian wars and the presence of soldiers from a Christian nation in a mainly Muslim country made the Somali government unpopular.

Yusuf's younger brother, Hussein Yusuf Ahmed, lives in Minneapolis.

He said he last spoke with his brother about a month ago. The ex-president's thoughts were on unifying Somalis, Hussein Yusuf said, and he still wanted to contribute to the improvement of Somalia as a retired service man.

Hussein Yusuf described his brother as a poet and a devout Muslim, whose bravery and generosity were widely known.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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