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From Minneapolis To Mogadishu, Somali-Americans Try To Help Survivors of Bomb Attack


The terrorist attack that killed 358 people in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, this month is being felt deeply in the Minneapolis area. Forty thousand people of Somali descent live there. And as Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio reports, most of them have some sort of a connection to a victim.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Amina Deble settled in Minneapolis nearly two decades ago after fleeing Somalia's civil war. Today she owns the East Village Grill, an African and Middle Eastern restaurant a few blocks from the new Vikings Stadium. As her husband makes lentil soup and kebabs in the kitchen, Deble says she's been keeping a close eye on her Facebook feed despite its endless stream of tragedy. She desperately wants to know what's going on in Mogadishu, but the stories of all the innocent people killed are often too much to handle.

AMINA DEBLE: I have restaurant and I have food everywhere, but I was not eating the whole day. Every time I want to touch food, I just feel sorry. I just feel like part of my body is crying, you know?

SEPIC: Deble says none of her family members died in the attack, but she did lose a good friend who was living here. Ahmed Eeyo was a 50-year-old father of three who lived in suburban Minneapolis and was killed in his hotel just hours after arriving in Mogadishu for a short trip. Eeyo's wife, Ruun Abdi, says her husband was proud to be an American citizen and dreamed of joining the United Nations mission in Somalia. Abdi says Eeyo worked as a welder while earning two college degrees.

RUUN ABDI: We miss him so much. And I want to know people know he was a great father. He has two jobs and helping us very much. He worked so hard.

SEPIC: Eeyo was an active member in his mosque, which has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his family. In Somalia, despite a quarter century of civil war, the nation of 14 million has never experienced an attack on this scale. Minneapolis City Councilman Abdi Warsame calls it Somalia's 9/11. Seven of his cousins were killed.

ABDI WARSAME: It did touch me. And I've been numb for a couple of days. And I called my mom to console her, but she consoles me because she's very strong.

SEPIC: Psychotherapist Ahmed Karie says so many of his fellow Somali-Americans are suffering secondary trauma that he's even begun phone consultations.

AHMED KARIE: Mostly they lost relatives and loved ones. But there are some who are actually very angry, very shocked, and want - they wanted to process that.

SEPIC: As they work through their grief, Somali-Americans are trying to help in any way they can. Said Sheik-Abdi is with the American Refugee Committee based in Minneapolis. His group is focusing on Mogadishu's Medina Hospital, which has been overwhelmed.

SAID SHEIK-ABDI: Antibiotics, hospital beds, bandages, insulin for the diabetic patients - these are the kind of the supplies that we're actually sending to the hospital.

SEPIC: People in Somalia also need money, but those here trying to send it directly to relatives still face considerable obstacles. That's because since 2001, the U.S. government has severely restricted wire transfers to Somalia. The goal is to block funding for al-Shabab, the Islamist militant group suspected in the bombing. So leaders in the Somali community here say donating to aid groups that have workers on the ground in Mogadishu is the best way to help those suffering from this terrorist attack. For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Matt Sepic
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