A series of shootings that killed at least three young men this summer is stirring fears in the Somali community that a gang war has broken out, threatening to take more lives and tarnish its reputation.
The killings, two in Minneapolis and one in Burnsville, amount to the worst outbreak of violence among Somalis since a rash of gang-related killings in 2008 left people shaken and led to a groundbreaking community meeting with Minneapolis police before it ended.
“We thought this thing went away,” said Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali activist, speaking of the killings. Though police departments in Minneapolis and Burnsville would not comment on the shootings, several people within the Somali community said they believe the rash of killings this summer is gang-related and focused in revenge.
What started the shooting isn’t clear, said Bihi.
“This type of gang is not about money. It’s not about controlling turf. We don’t even know what it is,” he said.
It’s upsetting to older Somalis who feel they’ve made headway establishing the community in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, said Bihi.
There’s been a stronger sense of security among Somalis since the Minneapolis Police Department hired Somali officers, two of whom work the evening shift in the Cedar-Riverside area.
The trouble began June 1, when Mohamed O. Aden, of south Minneapolis, was shot several times while seated in a car parked outside a home in the 2400 block of NE. Washington Street.
A second man was shot to death July 4th in a south Minneapolis apartment building at 3033 Grand Av. S.
He was identified by the Hennepin County medical examiner as Muhyadin Mohamud Farah, 26, of Minneapolis. He was shot in the chest inside his apartment.
Then in the early morning of Aug. 13, someone shot Abdifatah Ahmed Mahumod, 23, and wounded another man in the Andrew’s Pointe townhouse complex in the 2100 block of E. 117th Street in Burnsville.
Neither the Minneapolis nor the Burnsville Police Departments commented Friday on the cases.
No criminal charges have been filed in any of the killings.
The series of killings has alarmed some Somalis that they may be witnessing another rash of gang-related shootings like those in 2008, when several young men died. Though ties to all of the shootings were never fully made, it was widely assumed that they were connected.
It started with a double homicide in late 2007, which left two Somali men dead. Four months later, in an alley in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, someone opened the door of a parked car and shot the passenger to death.
Two months after that, gunshots claimed the life of a 31-year-old Somali man as he stood outside a Brooklyn Center hotel.
He was the brother of one of the men killed in the 2007 double homicide.
Those killings led to a Somali community meeting that about 100 people attended at the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. High-ranking members of the Minneapolis Police Department attended in an effort to build trust with the Somalis, some of whom regarded police officers with suspicion based on experiences they had had in their native country.
That fall, someone shot Ahmed Nur Ali, 20, to death as he left the Brian Coyle Community Center following a volunteer shift there.
He was a freshman at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. A 16-year-old was later charged in his death.
A week later, a 21-year-old Somali man was shot in the chest outside the Village Market Mall in south Minneapolis. Hassan Abdillahi was sentenced to 32 years in prison for the shooting.
The bloodshed continued four months later when Ali Ismael, 23, who had testified against Abdillahi in his trial, was shot dead as he sat in a car in a Nicollet Avenue S. parking lot.
The following spring, in 2009, Abdirizak D. Ali, 24, was shot as he sat a White Castle in Hopkins. A suspect was captured and charged for the killing.
The three who died in the most recent shootings were well known among other Somali youth, said Abdul Mohamed, a youth worker with Ka Joog, a Somali outreach organization based in Minneapolis. Drugs and gang violence may be involved in the shootings, he said.
“It’s definitely a back-and-forth,” he said. “One person dies, and a few weeks later somebody else dies. It’s not sporadic.”
Mohamed said he was concerned both for the youth who may get involved in the shootings and for the larger Somali community, which tends to get a black eye whenever Somalis are involved in high-profile crimes.
Aside from the group’s daily work reaching out to Somali youth, Mohamed said he and others with Ka Joog are planning an upcoming event to address this latest round of violence.
Abdifatah Farah, artistic director for Ka Joog, said underlying issues are behind the crime. “We’re trying to open the doors for some of these youth,” he said.