The mayor of Mogadishu has died after being badly wounded in an al-Shabaab extremist attack in his office last week, the government of Somalia has announced.
Abdirahman Omar Osman was a naturalised Briton who returned to Somaliato help rebuild the war-torn country. He spent 17 years in the UK including a stint as housing manager at Ealing council in west London.
He died on Thursday in Qatar, where he had been airlifted for treatment after the attack on 24 July. Officials said he had been in a coma.
His son, Mohamed Omar, a student at London’s Queen Mary University, said: “Today the people of Mogadishu lose their mayor; but I lost my father. May Allah grant him the highest rank of paradise.”
Osman was among several people seriously wounded when a female suicide bomber detonated a device inside the headquarters of Banadir district, which encompasses Mogadishu.
Six people, including two district commissioners and three directors, were also killed in the blast. It is unclear how the attacker managed to enter the mayor’s office, as visitors are required to pass through at least four metal detectors.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, the al-Qaida-linked militants who have waged a deadly insurgency against the western-backed government in Mogadishu. It said they were targeting the UN special envoy James Swan, who had been in the building just hours earlier.
Swan condemned the “heinous” attack on those trying to rebuild their country and improve the lives of its citizens. He said Osman had spent years “helping his country on its path to peace and stability, and meeting the needs of Mogadishu’s most vulnerable”.
Osman had been an outspoken opponent of al-Shabaab. In the wake of a truck bomb attack that killed almost 600 people in Mogadishu in 2017, he wrote an article in the Guardian urging Somalis to speak out against the militant jihadi group. “The fight must go on, in everything we do, from reporting anything suspicious to the security forces to educating our boys and girls so they are not vulnerable to the violent, alien ideology of al-Shabaab,” he wrote in his previous role as minister for information.
Osman, who was nicknamed Engineer Yarisow (“Young Engineer”), had tried to clean up the city and rebuild its battered infrastructure.
Ben Fender, the UK’s ambassador to Somalia, pledged to help to continue the reconstruction work that Osman had begun.
Goodbye @engyarisow, public servant, kind and gentle colleague, friend. You have been called away much too soon. Our hearts are so heavy today. We will join hands to finish the work you started, and the Somalia we build will be your greatest memorial.
Al-Shabaab was chased out of Mogadishu in 2011, but the capital is still hit regularly by the militants, who retained control of large swaths of the countryside.
Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed, a spokesman for the president, said the mayor’s death would unite Somalis in the fight against extremism. “We extend our condolences to the family and friends of the Mogadishu mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, and we share our grief regarding this painful death with the entire Somali public,” he said in a statement.
The US mission to Somalia in a tweet called Osman “an excellent partner and tireless advocate for the people of Mogadishu and all Somalis”. Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of mourning for the mayor, ordering that flags be flown at half mast.