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Mahad Ali: Teenager stabbed to death by gang of armed attackers at warehouse party was talented boxer

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DANIEL O’MAHONY, JUSTIN DAVENPORT

A teenager stabbed to death at a warehouse party in west London was a talented boxer, it emerged today.

Mahad Ali, 18, was set upon by a gang of armed attackers as more than 200 people spilled out of the event on an industrial estate in Park Royal at 2.30am yesterday.

The student was rushed to hospital with multiple stab wounds but was pronounced dead soon afterwards.

Mr Ali is the 13th teenager to be murdered in London this year and the tenth young person to die of knife wounds. He is also the tenth fatality from knife crime so far this month.

His parents are said to be inconsolable with grief, with a relative saying: “They are crying and crying for their child”.

Friends today paid tribute to Mr Ali, who was a former pupil of Highbury Grove School and member of the Islington Boxing Club.
A picture of the teenager with British world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua Joshua was shared on social media.

School friend Claudio Bellezza, 18, said: “Mahad was unique. He never spoke ill of anyone behind their backs, always kept his promises and was never deceitful, which makes it even harder to believe he’s gone.

“He had ambition, he was a hard worker and a great boxer, he showed empathy to those in difficult positions.”

A fellow classmate at Highbury Grove who lived on the same road as Mr Ali in Islington, said: “Mahad was the kindest person you will ever meet in your life. He was always smiling and wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Another friend said: “He was a loving person. I met him and we were instantly family. He was just an innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I’m sorry for his poor mother and family. She loves him to bits, he was a great son to her.”

Islington Boxing Club paid tribute online saying they were saddened to hear of his death. The teenager had been a member for a few years and had progressed through through the junior academy to compete for the club.

The statement said : “Mahad has become another victim to knife crime that is plaguing the streets of London and affecting so many. It is sad that young people are losing they lives so frequently for no reason. Too many young people are caught up in this and it really needs to stop.

“Thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time. “

The warehouse party was “hijacked” by violent gangs towards the end of the night, according to one of the promoters.

He said: “Around 250 people attended the event yesterday around 2.50am (the event would have finished at 3am) numerous fights started happening, loads of people hijacked the event from outside.

Tribute: victim Mahad Ali pictured when he met boxing champion Anthony Joshua

“Whilst the brawl occurred I was stabbed in the face whilst helping someone who was heavily outnumbered getting attacked.”

It is understood to have been held in the premises of the Wanasah Lounge, which closed in April 2016 following a planning dispute with Ealing Council.

Former owner Amira Al-Shamaa said: “When we were there, there were none of these problems.”

Mr Ali’s killing came two days after Sadiq Khan announced new measures to combat London’s knife crime epidemic, including a £625,000 funding boost for projects to tackle gang activity.

Detective Chief Inspector Luke Marks, who is leading the investigation, said: “At some point an altercation began inside, and then may have spilled outside, which resulted in the victim being stabbed.

“Another man was treated at the scene for a head injury and it may be that others were injured too – we would appeal for those people to come forward.”
There have been no arrests.

Anyone with information is asked to call the incident room on 020 8358 0300 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Arts & Culture

Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri named young people’s laureate for London

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THE GUARDIAN — The 24-year-old Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri, who has been chosen as the new young people’s laureate for London, is hoping to spend her year in the role convincing young people “to see poetry as part of their every day, rather than in some dusty tome, or academic niche interest”.

Mehri, who has a background in biochemical science and wrote the poetry chapbook sugah. lump. prayer, has been shortlisted for this year’s Brunel African poetry prize and won last year’s Out-Spoken Page poetry prize. As laureate, Mehri hopes to encourage young people to voice their concerns and experiences through poetry.

The poet, from Kilburn in north-west London, was selected for the role by a panel of arts organisations and poets, and is, according to Spread the Word’s chair of trustees Rishi Dastidar, “an inspired choice” and a “poet to watch”.

“For young people to have an artist who is an ambassador for them, who brings their concerns, struggles and joys to those in authority, and the wider world, is vital,” Dastidar said. “Her poetry is precise and powerful, and rich with images that are haunting. She is not afraid to tackle the biggest of subjects, which, combined with her talent, is going to give the role a renewed sense of purpose and visibility.”
Mehri said she was exposed to oral forms of poetry by her family when growing up, but only began writing for publication around four years ago. “Over time I honed, or found, my voice, and that allowed me to feel comfortable, finding the poetic voice I felt was most suited to me. Obviously at the beginning you’re very much inspired by your influences,” she said. “I think the poetry I write is interested in questions or ideas around disruption or movement, whether it’s movement of people or places, movement between different ideas, between how things change over different generations, and in themes of migration and urban spaces.”

During her time in the role, Mehri will be looking to amplify the voices of Londoners aged between 13 and 25, “to let them lead conversations, to be as inspired by them as hopefully they can be inspired by me”. She will work with writer-development agency Spread the Word on youth-focused residencies across London, head a tour to six outer London boroughs, and co-host a special project for young London poets called The Young People’s Poetry Lab.

According to research from the National Literacy Trust, 84% of teachers who participated in a poetry programme for disadvantaged children in London schools over a five-year period said their writing skills had improved.

Outgoing young people’s laureate for London, Caleb Femi, said that “poetry has the potential to play a vital part in self-expression and artistic enjoyment in the lives of young people”.

“We need a dedicated person who can assist in integrating the joys of poetry into the everydayness of young Londoners,” he added. “We are extremely lucky to have a talented and dedicated poet such as Momtaza Mehri appointed as the new young people’s laureate for London. Her tenure is sure to be an extraordinary one.”

Mehri said that she wanted to: “Reach everybody, to allow people to see poetry as part of everyday living in London, and all the different poetry traditions that people bring to London.”

“I am very much aware of the fact that I came out of a very different poetic tradition, and what that’s brought to my writing of the English language. So I want to be aware of the fact that people are carrying different poetic influences, whether they consider themselves poets or not,” she said.

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Food

Bristol’s Somali Kitchen: Empowering women through cooking

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Suad Yusuf set up the Somali Kitchen in Bristol to bring women together to share recipes, promote healthy eating and to support and empower one another.

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UK

London lawyer acquitted of forcing daughter to undergo female genital mutilation

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LONDON, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A London solicitor accused of forcing his daughter to undergo female genital mutilation was acquitted on Thursday, increasing pressure on police and prosecutors who have yet to secure a conviction for FGM more than 30 years after it was outlawed.

The prosecution was only the second to be brought under FGM legislation introduced in 1985.

During a nine-day trial at London’s Central Criminal Court, the prosecution alleged that the defendant had twice arranged for someone to come to the family home to cut his daughter as a form of punishment when she was around nine years old.

But the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said in an emotional testimony that the allegations were fabrications arising from a very acrimonious divorce.

He said his wife had repeatedly threatened to destroy him and had turned their children against him.

“I didn’t cut my daughter. I would never hurt my daughter,” he told the jury. “I would give my life for my children.”

A medical expert confirmed the girl’s genitalia had been cut but said the scars were unusual and could not say when the injuries occurred.

The 50-year-old lawyer, who comes from West Africa, said FGM was not practiced in his community and he had no idea who had cut his daughter. He was also cleared of three counts of child cruelty.

Police and prosecutors have faced mounting pressure in recent years to secure a conviction for FGM as part of broader efforts to eradicate the practice, which usually involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia.

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM, which affects immigrant communities from various countries including Somalia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.

Politicians and campaigners, who believe thousands of girls in Britain are at risk of FGM, have said a successful prosecution would act as a deterrent.

Prosecutors were criticised over the first FGM trial in 2015 when a doctor was accused of performing FGM while treating a woman who had given birth. He was acquitted.

A leading obstetrician branded the trial a “ludicrous” travesty of justice which would leave doctors on labour wards terrified of touching women who had been subjected to FGM.

A second trial involving FGM – but brought under child cruelty laws – collapsed last month. (Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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