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Edinburgh gun death: victim chased for 4 hours
Police named the victim of the shooting as  Mohammed Omar Abdi from Leith. Picture: submittedPolice named the victim of the shooting as Mohammed Omar Abdi from Leith. Picture: submitted

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

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THE son of a Muslim cleric gunned down in the street was pursued for up to four hours across the city in a high-speed car chase which saw a convoy of vehicles race through red lights.

Police are still trying to piece together the events that ended in Mohammed Abdi being gunned down at Abercorn Sports Club in the early hours of Sunday morning.

One theory they are pursuing is that the gang thought he was helping police following a drugs seizure at his former home earlier this month.

The gang hunting him first visited the house they believed he was living at in Captain’s Drive, in Gracemount, late on Saturday evening. But he was not there and windows appeared to have been shattered by gun shots.

A confrontation then took place following an incident involving two vehicles in Lochend, which police believe is connected to the chase.

It was followed by an incident in Niddrie, which sparked a high-speed, three-mile pursuit, which ended in the murder.

Officers said the people carrier may have been in convoy with up to four other vehicles driving erratically, speeding and running red lights.

As detectives renewed appeals for sightings of a blue Volkswagen Sharan involved in the chase, family friends of the dead man said that the 25-year-old student and part-time security guard had been “seduced” into working with the Somali gang by their champagne lifestyle.

Members of the Elhag family, who have been friends with the victim for ten years, said they had spoken to the driver of the car carrying Mohammed during the high-speed pursuit – now under 24-hour police protection – who witnessed the shooting.

They claimed the gang had set out to kill Mohammed after his Leith home was raided and crack cocaine seized.

The driver – a Libyan Scot who the Evening News is not naming – saw Mohammed smile at him as he fell to the ground.

Officers believe the VW, below, may have been in Captain’s Drive, Gracemount, on Saturday evening.

Detective Superintendent Gary Flannigan, who is leading the investigation, said: “It may have a significant part to play in our inquiry and I am urging anyone who saw a blue VW Sharan in that area on Saturday evening, or heard a disturbance anytime between 9pm and midnight, to contact us.”

The chase ended when the people carrier smashed into railings on Abercorn Avenue at around 1am on Sunday. Officers found Mohammed, who is not believed to have been travelling in the VW vehicle, lying on the road. Up to six men were travelling in the VW, possibly carrying baseball bats.

After the people carrier crashed into railings on the street, his friends said that Mohammed attacked one of the pursuing cars with a baseball bat before being shot.

Police said that Mohammed was shot “more than once” following the results of a post-mortem, and that officers were working with other forces in the UK to identify the suspects.

The Elhag family said that a member of an eight-strong Somali gang had been stabbed at the scene, and he was the man later found bleeding heavily in nearby Paisley Crescent.

They said the Somali men had moved to Edinburgh from London and Glasgow about four months ago.

Two sisters from the family – whose brother was Mohammed’s best friend – spoke of the horror attack at their Leith home.

They said that the car driver had called their brother minutes after the incident and both men rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where Mohammed had been taken. But they learned that he had been pronounced dead and were taken away for questioning by police.

The 24-year-old sister, who asked not to be named, said: “The bad guys from London and Glasgow had four men in each of two cars. They had chased Mo and his friends from Niddrie to where the crash happened. Mo was in the passenger seat and there were two of his Somali friends in the back. They all got out and Mo started hitting one of the bad guys’ cars with a baseball bat. He thought they were trying to kill him. He had the bat for protection, but he had no idea they had a gun.

“One of the Somali men got stabbed in the fight. He was the person the police found.

“Then one of the guys shot Mo. [The driver] said that Mo had smiled at him after he was shot and was falling over.

“One of his friends tried to lift Mo up, but he was too heavy. They wanted to get him to the car to take him to hospital. [The driver] called my brother at home and told him the whole story.”

The sister said that the driver told them a “professional hitman” had been brought in by the gang to kill Mohammed.

She added: “The Somalis took advantage of Mo. They exploited the fact that they were from Somalia, saying to him ‘we’re blood, we speak your language’. They got him involved with drug dealing but he was not that type of person.

“They were guys who were going to nightclubs and ‘popping bottles’ – spending lots of money on champagne – and trying to impress the ladies. That’s how Mo met them, he started chatting with them in a club.”

Police said that two different gangs were involved in the confrontation in Willowbrae, with Mohammed belonging to one of them. He was facing drug dealing charges after being arrested in a raid earlier this month on his flat in Leith.

Mohammed’s family fled war-torn Somalia for the UK more than ten years ago.

The 20-year-old sister said: “My brother was Mo’s best friend. They were more like brothers and we considered him a family member. Mo was always at our house and loved my mother’s cooking.

“He was a great guy.

“Mo was such a loyal friend and he had a pure white heart. Everyone who knew him loved him and respected him.”

Her older sister said: “I was in Mo’s computer classes at Drummond High School. He was a joker and was always smiling. He was a very intelligent person. We’d go with him to the Central Mosque for Friday prayers.”

Mohammed’s cousin, Mohammed Elhag, said: “He went to Drummond High School and was now working for a security group. He was also studying painting and decorating at Telford College. “His family moved to Birmingham about two months ago, but his dad has been travelling between there and Edinburgh as he is the second imam at the Edinburgh Central Mosque.”

Mr Elhag said the police had interviewed him as he was the first to arrive at the hospital after the fatal incident.

He said: “I was questioned by police because I was first to get to hospital. My friend called me and told me that Abdi had been hurt, so I went to the scene first, but no-one would tell me anything. Then I went to the hospital and the police asked me how I knew that he was there, so I told them someone had told me.”

Neighbours reveal armed police officers descended on Abdi flat

POLICE officers armed with machine guns swooped on Mohammed Abdi’s flat in Leith in the hours after he was murdered, neighbours said today.

Armed response officers arrived at Buchanan Street at around 7.20am on Monday and descended on the victim’s first-floor flat.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “I opened my front door and saw an officer holding a machine gun in the stairwell.

“Other officers with guns went up the stairs to his flat. They were inside for about 20 minutes.”

Another resident said that he had called police last week, possibly on Thursday, after a man was trying to break down Abdi’s door.

He said: “My buzzer went off and a man with an African accent said he had forgot his key and could I buzz him in. I buzzed him but only a few seconds later I heard banging downstairs.

“The guy was kicking the door in so I called the police. Officers came out but I’m not sure what happened after that.”

Another neighbour said that three black men had been staying at the flat for the past two weeks.

Abdi was arrested following a raid at the flat. He appeared from custody in court on May 3, charged with being involved in the supply of drugs.

He was also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act. After making no plea or declaration, he was released on bail.

Operation Amend resulted in the arrests of 25 people, along with the seizure of £300,000 worth of drugs and almost £250,000 in cash.

‘We have all been left devastated by his death’

The father of Mohammed Abdi last night paid tribute to his “much-loved” son.

Omar Abdi released a statement calling for those responsible for the death of his son to be brought to justice.

Mr Abdi, 58, was described by worshippers at Edinburgh’s Central Mosque as being a “second imam” at the Mosque, who often led prayers for worshippers.

He said he had been left “devastated” by the death of his son and called for anyone with information to come forward.

In a statement, he said: “Mohammed was my son and a much-loved member of the family.

“We have all been left devastated by his death and we want those responsible to be brought to justice so we can fully begin to grieve.

“I would ask anyone who knows anything about his murder to go to the police immediately.

“In order that we can mourn our loss, I would ask that the family’s privacy is respected at this time.”

Mohammed Sajjad, who was an imam at the Central Mosque until June 2011, also paid tribute, and said: “Mohammed Abdi was a very quiet and decent person.

“I saw him last week getting his haircut in Nicolson Street and he waved hello. I would often see him in the street or at the mosque.

“When I came to the mosque in 2005, his father worked there teaching children for £200 a week. He was later made a full-time imam and would lead prayers.

“He was an asylum seeker who was later given a British passport.”

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