Ahmed (Knowmadic) Ali juggled the last days of his school board trustee campaign while consoling family members reeling from one of the worst bomb attacks in Somalia's history.

Monday night was supposed to be a time to celebrate the end of a long campaign for Ali, who ran as a public school board candidate in Edmonton's Ward A. (Unofficial results late Monday showed Ali finished second in the ward to winner Cheryl Johner.)

But 24 hours before the ballots were counted, Ali got a call from his mother with devastating news.

He learned his uncle was one of more than 300 people killed after a bomb detonated Saturday in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital. One of his female first cousins is missing and presumed dead.

"I can't fathom why or who would do this," Ali said in his campaign office Monday. "It's beyond my reasoning, it eludes me. It's just confusing." 

Saturday's bomb blast was the most powerful ever in Somalia. In addition to the people killed, almost 400 others were injured.

Officials blame African Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab for the attack.

Ali's father boarded a plane for Somalia on Monday shortly after he discovered some of his family members were still missing. He planned a trip months ago, but Ahmed said his father will now be "weathering the storm" in the capital, trying to track down more relatives still unaccounted for.

Ahmed Ali

Ali says he is using the attack in Mogadishu as a way to work harder for and with the people of Edmonton. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Ali, now 33, and his parents came to Edmonton in 1992. They were refugees from Somalia at the height of the country's civil war.

Ali  likes to give back to his adopted city. He created a spoken-word group called the Breathe In Collective, sat on the Edmonton Arts Council and was recently appointed Edmonton's poet laureate.

"Being Canadian I'm privileged to be in a place where I feel secure and I don't have to fear for my life," he said. "I feel for my people in Somalia and I want them to know that we really care for them."

Even though the family moved  to Canada 25 years ago, Ali said Somalia is still his home. He plans to host a fundraiser for the 25,000 Somalis living in Edmonton later this month.




With files from the Associated Press