Youthful Somali minister, and ex-Dadaab refugee, shot dead outside presidential palace in Mogadishu

On the evening of Wednesday May 3rd, Abass Abdullahi Siraaji, Somali minister for public works and reconstruction, was shot dead near the Somali presidential palace in Mogadishu. The circumstances surrounding Siraaji’s death are still undetermined, but preliminary reports indicate that he was shot dead by guards working for the Somali auditor general. Some reports say the guards were involved in a shootout with another group of security, and others claim that they feared that the car Siraaji was driving was under the control of Al-Shabaab. Nothing is yet clear, but the Somali government has stated that it will conduct an expeditious investigation.

Aged 31, and a former Dabaab refugee, Siraaji was tapped to become a minister in the  government of Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, who is hailed as being in favor of competence and technocracy. Siraaji  earned his high school degree in the camp in Dadaab camp, and then completed his university education in Nairobi. He had previously worked for the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

News of Siraaji’s death was met with an outpouring of emotion on Somali social media. Residents of Dadaab were particularly devastated, with many youth there viewing Siraaji as a hometown hero.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, many Somalis have called upon the government to do something about the proliferation of armed security in the city, which they say has created a dangerous environment. These security guards, often high on drugs and recruited from among the ranks of local thugs, behave in reckless ways, and are regularly implicated in unnecessary, trigger-happy killings.

President Farmaajo cut short a state visit to Ethiopia to lead the investigation into Siraaji’s death. He stated that a state funereal will take place shortly.

Siraaji is survived by a wife, a young child, and a large extended family. He was the youngest Somali minister in the country’s history.




EDIT: An earlier version of this article stated the guards suspected worked for the attorney general, but in fact they worked with the auditor general. A correction has been made.