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Mogadishu Mayor Dies of Injuries From Suicide Bombing

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The mayor of Mogadishu has died after being badly wounded in a suicide bombing by Al Shabab in his offices last week, Somalia’s government said on Thursday. Six of his colleagues were also killed in the attack, and nine members of his staff wounded.

Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman had been airlifted to Qatar, along with nine other injured people, for treatment after the attack, which struck on July 24, the lawmaker Dahir Amin Jesow said.

Al Shabaab, the Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group that aims to topple Somalia’s United Nations-backed government, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The militants have lost territory but have kept up a relentless campaign of bombings and assassinations.

The extremist group and government officials said that the suicide bomber, a woman, had been aiming for James Swan, the new United Nations envoy to Somalia, but that he had left the office minutes before the bombing.

It was not clear how the bomber managed to enter the mayor’s office, as visitors are required to pass through at least four metal detectors.

Mr. Osman had been a councilor in London before returning to Somalia to enter local politics and help rebuild his war-torn country.

From his passage to Britain after civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991 to his wounding back at home, his life story appeared to illuminate the hopes and dangers of some of the world’s most divisive political topics: migration and radicalization.

Richard Bailey, a British communications consultant, first met Mr. Osman after Mr. Osman was appointed Somalia’s information minister, in 2010, not long after his return.

“He was living and working in a ministry building that lay beneath a 50-foot radio transmitter mast which acted as an aiming post for repeated Shabaab mortar practice,” Mr. Bailey said.

In London, Mr. Osman had been a councilor for the opposition Labour Party, and Mr. Bailey, a former Conservative counselor, said he used to tease him about politics over goat stew and coffee.

Mr. Osman was struggling to keep a generator going so that Radio Mogadishu could broadcast to a city largely held at that time by insurgents who frequently targeted the city’s journalists.

He later served as the prime minister’s chief of staff as African Union peacekeepers helped the federal government claw back territory outside the capital from the insurgency.

He worked as minister of information for a second time and was then appointed mayor of Mogadishu in 2018, putting to work both his engineering degree and his years of experience working for the housing department in the London borough of Ealing.

Mr. Osman, nicknamed Engineer Yarisow (or “the young engineer”), had tried to clean up the city and construct roads from the rubble, Mr. Jesow said.

“He was in the middle of constructing Mogadishu streets and roads,” he said, adding that Mr. Osman had always spoken out against militancy. “He always struggled to tighten Mogadishu’s security.”

The mayor had introduced more measures to intercept potential car bombs and had tried to find land, shelter and jobs for those fleeing the conflict, said the British ambassador to Somalia, Ben Fender.

Before the news of his death, the ambassador called Mr. Osman “a kind and gentle man.”
“His team is young, smart and idealistic,” Mr. Fender said.

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