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Somali refugee who blazed political trail in Minneapolis dies of leukemia

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Hussein Samatar, who fled a civil war in his homeland to become the first Somali-American elected to public office in Minnesota, has died at age 45.

As KARE-11 reports, Samatar lost his fight with leukemia, which doctors diagnosed in March.

A statement from the Minneapolis Public Schools mourned Samatar's passing and praised his commitment to the city's children, especially those in new American communities.

MPR reports Samatar was educated in Somalia but left that country in 1991 amid the war that killed friends and family members. Once settled in Minneapolis he found success in the business world, eventually founding a non-profit group called the African Development Center to help fellow immigrants start businesses.

Samatar was elected to the Minneapolis school board in 2010. MPR says his election was likely the first for a Somali-American in the United States.

Last fall he was considering running for mayor of Minneapolis. But his leukemia diagnosis ended that prospect.

Outgoing Mayor R.T. Rybak was among those who used Twitter to express condolences following Samatar's death.

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