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Columbus, Ohio

Columbus Police search for suspects accused of killing two in west Columbus

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Columbus Police said they were searching for two men accused of killing two on Wedgewood Ave overnight Wednesday.

According to police, 35-year-old Desmond Lemelle Webster and 22-year-old Julius Ledale Anderson were charged with murder for the deaths of two people in west Columbus.

The shooting deaths happened after a home invasion took place around 4 p.m. Tuesday. Police said the first victim, 19-year-old Abdul Cadir Ali Yussef was killed around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

The second victim, 26-year-old Mohamed Ali Mohamed was pronounced dead Wednesday afternoon being rushed to Mt. Carmel West Hospital in critical condition overnight.
A third and fourth victim, a man and a woman were also injured in the shooting.

The two men, along with two others who have yet to be identified by police, were still at large Wednesday afternoon.

Police said the men are to be considered armed and dangerous.

Columbus, Ohio

Judge set to sentence Ohio man who plotted US attacks

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COLUMBUS — A federal judge on Friday is scheduled to sentence an Ohio man who plotted to kill military members in the U.S. following a delay in the case when a previous judge withdrew.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was born in Somalia but came to the U.S. as a child, was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty to plotting those attacks after becoming radicalized in Syria. The attacks were never carried out.

The government said Mohamud became a citizen to obtain a U.S. passport. He bought a ticket to Greece with a stop in Turkey, where he disembarked before going to Syria, prosecutors said in court documents. They said he never intended to go to Greece.

Prosecutors, who are seeking a 23-year sentence, said Mohamud wanted to travel to Texas and capture three or four soldiers and execute them. They said Mohamud, now 26, was trained in Syria and tried to cover up dangerous terrorist activity.

Mohamud and his lawyer, in asking for leniency, have said Mohamud had realized “the immoral and illegal nature of terrorist ideology” and abandoned any plans to engage in terrorism.

Mohamud’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, is asking Judge Michael Watson to consider the light sentence a federal judge in Minnesota handed down in 2016 to a Minnesota man.

In that case, Abdullahi Yusuf, just 20 at the time of sentencing, was convicted of conspiring to join the Islamic State in Syria. Yusuf, who cooperated with prosecutors and testified against others, was sentenced to time served in jail of 21 months, plus two decades of supervised release.

Mohamud was originally scheduled to be sentenced in August. Judge James Graham started that hearing, but in a surprise move, he announced he was delaying it to gather more information, including Mohamud’s current state of mind.

Graham also said he wanted information about possible treatment programs for Mohamud during and after prison.

Graham ordered a psychological evaluation of Mohamud and set a new sentencing date. But in December, Graham abruptly withdrew from the case without explanation.

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Columbus, Ohio

Somali refugee passes bar exam, runs for Ohio House

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Before Ismail Mohamad could become possibly the first Somali-born attorney licensed to practice in Ohio, he first had to convince his family that he was pursuing the right profession.

They knew he was tough, having escaped the violence of civil war in Somalia with his mother and seven older siblings when he was 5. They fled to Ethiopia, and later to Kenya, keeping up his education while facing challenges as refugees in an unstable region.

They knew he was smart, earning mostly A’s at Northland High School after arriving with his family in Columbus in early 2005 at age 12. Pushed by his mother, who stressed education to all of her children, he took college classes while at Northland and helped mediate disputes at the school.

But becoming a lawyer?

“There is a stigma with Somali parents, where almost all of them want their children to be doctors for some reason,” said Hodan Mohamad, one of Ismail’s five older sisters. “Mom wanted him to be a doctor.”

That was a problem, however. “I don’t like blood,” Ismail said.

Ismail’s decision to enter Ohio State University for a career in law, rather than medicine, troubled his family. But that anxiety faded away on Nov. 13, when Ismail raised his right hand and was sworn into the Ohio Bar.

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“There is a big push for immigrant families to want to be doctors and engineers,” Ismail, 25, said. But he knew coming out of high school those were not areas he wanted to pursue.

“Civil rights is a big issue of mine, making sure people’s rights are being protected, especially the immigrant community, the black community and really any under-represented communities.”

Ismail believes he is the first Somali-born lawyer licensed in Ohio, but confirming that is difficult. Neither the state nor local bar associations track such information. If he’s not No. 1, he’s definitely among the first.

Omar Hassan, director of the Somali Community Association of Ohio, said the Somali community is proud of Ismail, but he doesn’t think he’s the first in Ohio.

There have been others, Hassan said, specifically mentioning Hodan Siad, a Somali-American from Columbus who graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 2008.

Contacted by The Dispatch, Siad said she moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue government work and was never licensed in Ohio. She is licensed in Maryland and Washington.

The ability to affect lives drove Ismail to law, and, he said, also has him exploring politics. He is running for the Ohio House in the 25th District, challenging Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent, D-Columbus.

If elected, Ismail would become the nation’s second Somali-American state lawmaker, following 34-year-old Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, who took office in January.

Ismail’s road to the Ohio Bar was not an easy one.

Violence first pushed his family out of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and then, as civil war spread, his mother decided the country was no longer safe. The family fled to neighboring Ethiopia in late 1997, where they lived about four years before going to Kenya.

“In Ethiopia, the police were better but the nation was not welcoming,” Hodan Mohamad said. “In Kenya, the nation was welcoming, but the police; when you go out you have to show proof of your age or you will be caught and have to pay money.”

Ismail’s father, Cali Casayr, came to the United States in 1997 through a visa lottery, but the rest of the family couldn’t afford to join him right away. Casayr spent years working in Columbus, sending money to help support the family.

“My parents never had a lot of money, but they always knew the value of education and made sure their kids were going to school. Mom did a lot of different work for us to get the best education she could,” Ismail said.

Only those who could pay for one got an education in Kenya, Ismail said, and that helped him transition to school in Columbus.

“That’s something taken for granted in the U.S., but coming from a background where people literally have to do whatever it takes to get an education, you value that much more,” he said.

Ismail settled into school and knew he had to work hard. His mother, Shamis Mohamad, said she gave her kids a seven-year window after arriving in the United States to integrate, educate and find career paths.

“I’m happy now. I feel like everyone has become successful,” she said.

Ismail said there were some struggles in school, including fights among African ethnic groups. “That’s when I became active in the different nonprofits I worked with, both in high school and in college. The need for integrating the Somali community to the broader community was a big push that I championed.”

That included trips to the principal’s office, where he would help interpret and “try to mediate conflicts between different ethnicities or for Somalis who didn’t know what was going on.”

As Ismail moved on to Ohio State, the family tried to talk him out of a legal career, Hodan Mohamad said, speaking at Our Helpers, a non-profit agency she started in 2012 to help immigrants, particularly Somalis, integrate and find assistance.

“But he insisted on doing it. He said, ‘This is what I want to do and I’m going to make it happen.’”

At one point, Hodan said, the family had a meeting, concerned that Ismail wasn’t reading enough or struggling enough. They questioned whether he was actually going to school.

“He was like, “Mom, just wait; I’m going to invite you to my graduation,’” Hodan said.

“The day we were going to his graduation ceremony was really a big deal and really a surprise for all of the family.”

Now, mom says she is very happy, noting there are a lot of doctors, but a big need for Somali lawyers. Plus, she said, her son can serve as an example to others in the community.

Being among the first Somali-American attorneys in Ohio means a lot, Ismail said. Even when he was still in law school, he said, he was already getting calls asking for help.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “I don’t know who is giving out my cell number, but a lot of people have been calling me around the city. I’m currently not charging them anything. There is a big need and people are not able to pay. They are taken advantage of with legal fees that are extremely high.”

Ismail hopes to start his own practice, though for now he’s more focused on his run for the Ohio House.

“I see the issues people are dealing with, and I know I can be a voice for others in various communities,” he said.

jsiegel@dispatch.com

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Columbus, Ohio

Hoyo’s Kitchen Wants To Be Columbus’ Gateway To Somali Culture

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At Hoyo’s Kitchen, Angie Sharkey says she likes a little of everything.

Sharkey, who came with two colleagues from the Columbus Metropolitan Library, says they’re regulars here. When owner Abdilahi Hassan comes around to take her order, she tells him, “Surprise me.”

Tucked into a nondescript Cleveland Avenue strip mall, between an Irish pub and “Waterbeds and Stuff,” Hoyo’s Kitchen has the curious honor of being the city’s only “fast casual” Somali restaurant.

In fact, it’s one of the few Somali restaurants here at all – surprising for the city with the second-largest population of Somali refugees in the country.

In the three years since it opened, though, Hoyo’s already earned a devoted following in Columbus – and expanded a lot of appetites. The food website Eater recently called Hoyo’s one of the “Midwest’s 38 Essential Restaurants.” It was the only Columbus establishment to even make the list.

Mother’s Kitchen

Over the past decade and a half, tens of thousands of Somali refugees settled in Columbus, mostly on the city’s North Side. Hassan, 29, is one of them, after moving with his family to Columbus from the D.C. area 14 years ago.

But food’s always been on his mind.

“I love my mother’s cooking,” Hassan says. “I grew up basically hyping my mom up. Every time she would make something different, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, if only you’d open up a restaurant, people would be flocking.'”

After graduating from Ohio State in 2014, Hassan convinced his mother to open a restaurant with him. Quickly, it became a family endeavor.

“Everyone from my nieces and nephews to my grandparents jumped into the kitchen when we really need them,” Hassan says. “From the very beginning, this was an homage to my mother’s kitchen.”

“Hoyo,” Hassan explains, means “mother” in Somali.

Hayat Dalmar, 56, is the mother of restaurant owner Abdilahi Hassan and the head cook of Hoyo’s Kitchen.
CREDIT GABE ROSENBERG / WOSU

Not So Scary

Just after the lunch rush, Hassan’s mother Hayat Dalmar, 56, is back in the kitchen. She pulls from the oven a large pot of rice, bright orange from the spices.

“I brought my kitchen from my house to this restaurant,” Dalmar says, laughing.

Of all her dishes – goat, chicken, chai – she says rice is by far her favorite to cook.

“I like rice because my mother, she used to be a great cooker and I think I took it from her, and I have the passion,” Dalmar says. “I like to make rice.”

Hassan says certain aspects of Somali food still seem “exotic” to Americans. Goat, especially.

“There’s a lot of people that are scared of Somali food,” he says. “Or just scared of trying something different.”

But a lot of Somali food might be more familiar than people think. Hassan explains Somali food is an “organic fusion,” combining flavors from Indian, Middle Eastern and East African cuisines. Dishes like chabatti, a flat bread, or ugali, a sort of corn porridge, have versions all over the world.

Hoyo’s Kitchen serves a Somali chai tea, flavored with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, spicier than the kind served in most coffee shops. And they’re well-known for their sambusas, the Somali version of an Indian samosa: fried and triangular-shaped pastries.

“Everybody loves sambusa,” Hassan says. “That’s like our gateway drug. That’s our gateway into Somali food.”

The main difference between sambusas and samosas, Hassan says, is beef.

“Somalis are meat eaters, so ours has meat in it,” he says. “We don’t mess with veggies.”

Around Columbus, Hassan has graduated from hyping his mother’s food to hyping Somali food in general. He wants Hoyo’s Kitchen to be a sort of ambassador, which is also why he embraced the label of “fast casual.”

Columbus boasts a glut of “fast casual” restaurants, which split the difference between fast food and casual dining. Chipotle is the most famous, but Columbus has plenty of local “fast casual” chains like Fusian, 6-1-Pho and Bibibop.

“I’m a student of the game,” Hassan says. “You know, I studied the industry.”

By breaking down Somali dishes into parts, Hassan hopes to make it more approachable – for white people, for African-Americans, and just for everyone who hasn’t encountered this particular cuisine. They’ve made headway on that part, something Hassan credits to Columbus Food Adventures, which brings a tour by every Friday night.

Hassan, though, has big ideas for what Hoyo’s Kitchen could be.

“We want to be the bridge between our Somali community and the larger American population,” Hassan says.

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