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‘Our hearts are broken’: Family of slain human rights activist wants joint Canadian-Somali investigation

The family of slain Somali-Canadian human rights activist Almas Elman is asking for a joint investigation into her death by Canadian and Somali authorities and urging people not to jump to conclusions about the killing.

“Our hearts are broken right now by the immeasurable loss of our sister, wife and daughter Almas Elman,” sister Ilwad Elman said in a message she tweeted Saturday afternoon. “We feel an emptiness that can never be replaced.”

Almas was pregnant at the time of her death, Ilwad said.

Almas Elman (her first name is sometimes spelled Almaas), was shot and killed Wednesday as she travelled in a car inside a heavily defended base near the international airport in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. On Friday, the African Union said Elman that was apparently struck by a stray bullet and that there had been no reports of gunfire inside the base that day.

Ilwad Elman appeared to dispute the AU’s claim.

“Any statement on the circumstances surround the death of Almas are premature and not helpful to our family, including speculation on whether this was a ‘stray bullet,’” she tweeted. “We desire to see her murder thoroughly investigated and request it be done so jointly by the Somali and the Canadian authorities.”

She also cautioned about falling for “fake conspiracy theories and images circulating online.”

Almas Elman is the second prominent Somali-Canadian to be killed this year. In July, Hodan Nalayeh, a journalist who immigrated to Canada as a child during the Somali civil war and grew up near Toronto, was among 27 people killed in a suicide bomb attack in the southern city of Kismayo.

Both had moved to Canada as children, part of a wave of more than 55,000 Somali refugees who arrived in the 1980s and 1990s, fleeing the civil war that engulfed the country at the time and its brutal aftermath.

Almas and Ilwad Elman are the daughters of Elman Ali Ahmed, a prominent human rights advocate who was assassinated in Mogadishu in 1996. In 1999, his widow, Fartuun Adan, came to Canada with her four daughters, raising them in Ottawa. Fartuun returned to Somalia in 2007 to continue her husband’s work, founding the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in his memory.

The daughters followed her back to Somalia, with Almas and Ilwad working with the organization. Ilwad was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

In her message, Ilwad said the family had been moved “by the incredible outpouring of support from all over the world,” since the killing of her sister, noting that “our family has been visited by this form of violent tragedy before.”

“This has compounded our grief and heartache, but it has not broken our resolve to build peace that saves other families from knowing the grief we are feeling right now. We remain unwavering in our commitment to working towards a Somalia where people can live without the fear of this happening to them or their loved ones.”

Almas Elman is survived by her mother, Fartuun, sisters Ilwad, Iman and Gesia, and her husband, Zakaria Hersi.