Hundreds attend funeral of Seward shooting victims

Mourners at the Burnsville Mosque pray during a funeral Friday, Jan. 8, 2010, for three men who were shot and killed Wednesday night at Seward Market and Halal Meat. The men were buried at a nearby cemetery.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Nearly 1,000 people gathered Friday afternoon to mourn three men killed at a Minneapolis corner market earlier this week. The shooting deaths of the men, all East African immigrants, has shaken the Twin Cities' East African community and the Seward neighborhood, where the incident occurred.

Rows of mourners sat shoulder to shoulder on the floor of the Burnsville Mosque Friday afternoon, praying for the souls of the three men they'd lost.

Coffins draped with red and blue cloths, patterned with Arabic lettering, stood in one corner of the large hall.

Nearby, speakers at a podium told mourners that the three men -- Anwar Mohamed, Mohamed Warfa, and Osman Elmi -- were returning home.

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Warfa and Elmi were cousins. Elmi worked at Seward Market and Halal Meats at E. Franklin and 25th Aves. Warfa visited him on Wednesday evening with a hot cup of Somali tea. They, Anwar Mohamed, and several others were in the market just before 8 p.m. that night when two men with guns entered.

Police responded to the corner store and found the men shot to death. Police at first said it was a suspected robbery, but authorities now say they cannot confirm the motive of the shooting or say whether a robbery took place.

A casket is wheeled out of the Burnsville Mosque after the funeral Friday, Jan. 8, 2010, for three East African men who were killed this week in Minneapolis.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Speakers at the funeral urged the Somali community to raise its children the Islamic way -- so they'd grow to be good people who wouldn't hurt themselves or others.

Groups of men rolled the caskets out to white hearses waiting outside in the cold. A funeral procession made up of hundreds of cars traveled one block to an Islamic cemetery called the Garden of Peace.

Men took turns using shovels to throw dirt onto the caskets. When they were covered, they stood quietly alongside for a moment before leaving.

Abdi Mohamad is a first cousin of Osman Elmi and Mohamed Warfa. He said Elmi, who was 28, had become a naturalized American citizen in November. Warfa, who was 30, leaves behind four children.

Shooting victim
Osman "Abdifatah" Elmi, 28, of St. Paul worked at Seward Market and Halal Meat. A mourner at his funeral Friday at a Burnsville mosque carries a photo of Elmi. He was one of three men shot and killed in a Minneapolis corner store on Wednesday night.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Mohamad said both men had fled civil war in Somalia.

"It's obviously not an easy thing when you're coming from a civil war, and the same thing repeats itself," said Mohamed. "While we were getting ready to bury them, the wife of Mohamed Wurfa fainted. She's currently in the hospital in Burnsville. We're obviously in a lot of pain and grief."

Police say video cameras captured the suspects on tape, and Mohamed questioned why the images haven't been released.

"The rumor has it the killers were Somalis. The way things work in the Somali community is that we could identify them," said Mohamed. "There are some clear pictures. We hope the police will release that. If these killers were indeed Somalis, we hope the release of the pictures will help before they leave the country and go somewhere else."

Victim and family
A photo of Mohamed "Mahad" Warfa, 30, of Savage, one of three men shot and killed in Minneapolis this week. Warfa leaves behind a wife and four children. Members of the Twin Cities East African community buried the three men at a cemetery in Burnsville on Friday, Jan. 8, 2010.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Police have declined to release the photos, saying it's not in the best interests of the investigation. Police say the images are clear, and they will release them if and when they become valuable to the investigation. They declined to say whether the suspects' faces were concealed.

Sgt. William Palmer says police have received a number of tips from the public.

"We've had people calling in, and we appreciate that cooperation from the community. We're endeavoring to run down every tip that's been provided to us," said Palmer.