A popular Somali folk singer, who lived in Minnesota briefly and was a member of the Somali parliament, was killed Wednesday in a drive-by shooting in Mogadishu.

The Islamic extremist group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for killing Saado Ali Warsame, who lived in St. Cloud and Minneapolis from 2007 to 2012.

“She was legendary,” said Ahmed Ali Said, who grew up in Somalia listening to War­same and now lives in St. Cloud. “She was like Michael Jackson to Somalis.”

She was heroic in the way she spoke out on Somali political issues, corruption and Al-Shabab, Said said. “She was very brave. … The message of her music was peace for Somalia, progress for Somalia and justice for Somalia. It was telling people to forget about tribalism.”

Warsame performed in 2010 in St. Cloud during a Somali independence celebration, according to the St. Cloud Times.

Hearing the news that she was killed, Said said he was speechless. “It was so heartbreaking,” he said. “The community is mourning.”

Said never got to see War­same in person in Somalia. But when she moved to St. Cloud, the two met several times in local coffeeshops.

“When people asked her why she moved to St. Cloud, she said ‘because there’s less traffic and we have a lot of parking spaces,’ ” Said said, laughing.

Warsame, like so many other diaspora Somalis, returned to her native country in hopes of making life better there, Said said. And she kept speaking out.


Mary Lynn Smith and the Associated Press contributed to this report.