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Recent Shootings in Rochester May Be Drug Related, Involve Somali-Americans

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Photos: Olmsted County Adult Detention Center. Shooting suspects Idris Haji-Mohamed and Abdi Abukar,

ALPHA NEWS — ROCHESTER, Minn. – A recent rash of shootings, with two occurring in broad daylight, over the past few weeks in Rochester are most likely drug related, according to police.

Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department told Alpha News that the most recent shooting occurred on Sunday, May 7 at 12:54 p.m. when a 36-year-old man driving on North Broadway in Rochester noticed a black Chevy Impala was following him and speeding toward his vehicle. Sherwin said the Impala caught up to the victim’s vehicle and shots were fired. The victim’s car was hit three times, with the rounds entering the vehicle, but the victim was not hit.

The victim said that he recently received information from a friend that three people were looking for him in connection with his involvement in a prior criminal case from a few years ago.

The victim was able to identify the shooters. Police arrested Abdulkadir Abukar, 26, and Kaisar Nur, 28. The men were arrested and charged with second-degree assault and drive-by shooting.

Sherwin said the shooting was not related to another midday shooting in Rochester that occurred on May 2 in a busy parking lot shared by a bank and three restaurants, where two men have been charged with attempted murder.

According to Sherwin, that incident occurred during lunchtime on May 2. Police were called to a parking lot near the Olive Garden Restaurant at 331 16th Avenue NW at 12:52 p.m. after they received several calls about shots being fired in the parking lot adjacent to a Denny’s Restaurant and Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon.

The suspects ran into Denny’s and then ran across the street to Kutzky Park, disappearing behind tennis courts. Police eventually located the two suspects and detained them. The men, identified by eyewitnesses, were 21-year-old Abdi Abukar of Rochester and 22-year-old Idris Haji-Mohamed, also of Rochester.

KROC-AM reports eyewitnesses identified Abukar as the man firing shots at a third man who was running through the parking lot. Police are still searching for the man who was being fired at. KAAL-TV reports several cars were hit during the shootout, but no one was hurt.

Both Abukar and Haji-Mohamed were arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault, Sherwin told Alpha News. KROC-AM News reports conditional bail for the two suspects was set at $500,000 for this recent incident.

A discarded revolver was found in the park, however, Sherwin said police believe that two guns were involved in the midday shootout, as some shell casings found in the nearby bank parking did not belong to the revolver. Sherwin told Alpha News that police believe the underlying issue for the midday shooting was drug related.

Just the day before the May 2 parking lot shooting, Abukar was released from custody in another drug case and was awaiting sentencing in a second drug case, according to the Post Bulletin.

Abukar pleaded guilty on April 3 in Olmsted County District Court to one of two identical felony counts of third-degree drug sale. He posted $40,000 conditional bail in March, which was allowed to remain in place after his guilty plea and is scheduled to be sentenced in the case on May 24.

The Post Bulletin reported that Abukar was back to selling crack cocaine less than two weeks after the April 3 plea, according to court documents. A warrant for his arrest was issued on April 25 after an undercover drug sale confirmed the crime. Abukar turned himself in on Monday, May 1st and appeared before Judge Dennis J. Murphy on one count each of second-degree drug sale and third degree drug possession, both felonies. Murphy set conditional bail at $20,000, which Abukar posted immediately according to the Post Bulletin report.

An incident on April 3 may be connected to the May 7 shooting where Rochester police were called to the scene of a shooting that left 16 bullet holes in cars and an apartment building. KTTC-TV reported a 36-year-old man from Minneapolis was shot at when he drove into the cul-de-sac of the 2700 block of 56th Street NW around 9:45PM.

The victim said he parked his car and saw a person near a tree running toward his Chevy Tahoe, shooting a gun. The victim hid underneath his steering wheel waiting for the shooting to stop. The victim saw the suspect run between nearby apartment complexes and get into a parked car that went westbound on 55th Street NW before running a red light on Bandel Road NW. The suspect is still at large.

Police reported 16 shots were fired hitting the victim’s Tahoe, another nearby car and an apartment building. No one was reported hurt. Sherwin told KTTC-TV that he doesn’t believe this was a random shooting.

Sherwin told Alpha News that police do not have any evidence that points to a specific suspect in this case, however, some of the names of suspects that have come up in this incident are the same names as the shooting that took place on May 7.

Despite the recent rash of shootings, Sherwin said there is not an uptick in crime in Rochester, telling Alpha News that crime in Rochester is actually down this year.

“There have been no homicides in Rochester this year. The recent shootings have been confined to a small group of people. We know who these people are,” Sherwin said.

Crime

Ilaria Alpi case may be reopened

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(ANSA) – Rome, April 17 – New wiretaps could lead to the reopening of the case of the murders in the Somalia capital Mogadishu on March 20 1994 of TG3 reporter Ilaria Alpi and her cameraman Miran Hrovatin, judicial sources said Tuesday. The wiretaps are said to have been made in 2012 between Somali individuals talking in Italy about the deaths of Alpi and Hovratin, sources said.

The wiretaps were made in a Florence probe into the trafficking of trucks decommissioned by the Italian army from Italy to Somalia, judicial sources said.

Some 15 people have been placed under investigation in the probe and the indictment of four of them, all Somalis, has been requested, sources said.

The transcripts were sent from Florence prosecutors to Rome prosecutor Maria Rosaria Guglielmi and filed by her Tuesday with a preliminary investigations judge for a hearing set to determine whether to shelve the case as requested by Rome prosecutors last June.

Judge Andrea Fanelli, in light of the new wiretaps and documents field by Alpi’s family, adjourned the hearings until June 8.

Rome prosecutors will work on the transcripts sent by Florence colleagues over the coming weeks.

Alpi’s mother Luciana said she “took note” of the new evidence but said “i don’t want to get my hopes up”. A Somali man who spent nearly 17 years behind bars for the killings but was subsequently cleared, Hashi Omar Hassan, said “Ilaria’s family must have justice”. On March 30 Hassan got over three million euros in compensation for his wrongful conviction and time in jail.

In October 2016 a Perugia court reversed Hassan’s conviction.

Prosecutor Dario Razzi told the court Hassan “did not commit” the crime.

He was the only person convicted of the murders.

Alpi, 32, and Hrovatin, 45, were ambushed and shot in their jeep in Mogadishu by a seven-man commando on March 20, 1994.

Initially, it was thought that the journalist was murdered in revenge for clashes which had broken out between the militias of Somalia’s warlords and Italian peacekeepers.

But a 1999 book by Alpi’s parents called The Execution alleged that Alpi and Hrovatin were killed to stop them revealing what they knew about an international arms and toxic-waste ring implicating high-level political, military and economic figures in both countries.

The book accuses the Italian secret services of playing a major role in this ring.

In 2015 Ahmed Ali Rage, who was also known as Gelle and who was a key witness for the prosecution in the trial that led to the conviction, said that Hassan was “innocent”.

Rage told a new trial that he “never told anyone” Hassan was part of the murder commando. Hassan was released into the custody of social services in 2015 with 10 years to go on his 26-year sentence.

“Thank God it’s over,” said Hassan at the time.

Alpi’s mother Luciana, who backed Hassan’s battle against the miscarriage of justice, said that she was “happy” Hassan had been cleared, but added that she was “bitter and depressed” that the real culprits had not been brought to justice.

“It’s as if she and Miran Hrovatin died of the heat in Mogadishu,” Luciana Alpi told ANSA. “We don’t have the truth and I don’t think we ever will”.

Photos taken of the dead body of Alpi, who worked for public broadcaster RAI’s third channel, and a medical report on the deaths, along with other key evidence including Alpi’s notes, camera and video cassettes, mysteriously went missing on the journey back from Africa to Italy, fuelling suspicions of a cover-up.

Speaking to RAI Channel 3, Rage in February 2015 claimed that he was asked to testify against Hassan.

“I did not see who fired the shots,” he reportedly told RAI 3.

According to the Italian diplomat who investigated the case in Somalia, former ambassador Giuseppe Cassini, the driver who acted as a key witness for the prosecution was “an unreliable individual who would do anything to survive”.

Hassan, who travelled to Italy in 1998 to give evidence in a probe into brutality by Italian soldiers, was acquitted of involvement in the two murders at the end of a first trial in July 1999.

But he was found guilty by an appeals court in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison.

Italy’s supreme Cassation Court upheld the guilty verdict in October 2001 but reduced the sentence from life to 26 years because it said the crimes were not premeditated.

Hassan’s lawyers said he was not in Mogadishu at the time of the killing and was tricked into coming to Italy.

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Crime

Kansas bomb plot trial drawing to a close as testimony ends

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The trial of three men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali refugees in western Kansas is drawing to a close after weeks of testimony.

All sides have rested in the federal case against Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen on charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright also faces a charge of lying to the FBI. The judge dismissed two weapons-related charges against Stein.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren plans a hearing on Monday to hash out the final jury instructions. Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday. The jury trial began March 20.

The three men were indicted in October 2016 on charges they planned set off bombs the day after the Presidential election.

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Somalia’s first forensic lab targets rape impunity

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AFP — Garowe – The new freezers at Somalia’s only forensic laboratory can store thousands of DNA samples, although for now there are just five.

The big hope is that they could be the start of a revolution in how the troubled Horn of Africa country tackles its widespread sexual violence – provided some daunting hurdles are overcome.

The first sample arrived at the start of the year taken on a cotton swab from the underwear of a woman, a rape victim from the village of Galdogob.

It was wrapped in paper and driven 250km to the Puntland Forensic Centre in Garowe, capital of semi-autonomous Puntland, slipped into a protective glass tube and placed in one of the three ultra-low temperature fridges.

If DNA ID can be teased from the sample, this would be a crucial step in convicting the woman’s rapist.

No longer would it be a case of he-said-she-said, in which the survivor is less often believed than the accused. Two decades of conflict and turmoil have made Somalia a place where lawlessness and sexual violence are rampant.

“Now, people who have been raped hide because they don’t have evidence,” said Abdifatah Abdikadir Ahmed, who heads the Garowe police investigations department.

But with the lab, he said, “it’s a scientific investigation. There are biological acts you can zero in on.”

Challenges

Not yet, however.

Abdirashid Mohamed Shire, who runs the lab, has a team of four technicians ready but is awaiting the arrival of the final pieces of equipment.

Their work to provide the evidence that might convict or exonerate is yet to begin.

And the pressure is on. The freezers mean the DNA samples can be safely stored for years but Somali law allows a rape suspect to be held for a maximum of 60 days. Shire needs the analysis and identification machines urgently so that, as he put it, “justice will be timely served”.

The laboratory, partly funded by Sweden, was launched last year after the Puntland state government enacted a Sexual Offences Act in 2016, which criminalised sexual offences and imposed tough penalties.

But technology alone will not solve Somalia’s many judicial weaknesses.

The DNA sample from Galdogob, for example, was stored in unclear and unrefrigerated conditions for five days before being sent to the lab, meaning a defence counsel could potentially argue the DNA evidence had been tampered with.

Human rights lawyers worry the new lab might backfire for this reason.

“A lot of thought needs to be given to how the chain of custody can be preserved in these kinds of cases,” said Antonia Mulvey of Legal Action Worldwide, a Kenya-based non-profit organisation.

More fundamental still is the failure of Somalia’s police to take sexual assault cases – and their jobs – seriously.

Corruption is rife, with a legal advisor to Puntland’s justice ministry saying officers “meddle” in cases, undermining them for personal gain.

“My concern is that the corrupted system could not make a sure success of the lab,” the advisor said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. “Investing in the lab is good, but we need to think about the preconditions.”

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) which helped pay for the lab is trying to address this by running training programmes for dozens of the Garowe police on sample collection, gender violence investigations and documentation.

But, the legal advisor cautioned that donors can only do so much.

“The issue is more complicated than training police. It relates to the political commitment of the government. UNFPA can train police but who will pay those you train? Are they given power to do the work?”

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