LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Fatuma Amir and Said Biyad, members of a persecuted minority, came to the United States from Somalia to escape the violence in their homeland and make a better life for themselves and their four young children.

They initially settled in Portland, Ore., to begin learning English and looking for work.

But in Oregon, their marriage unraveled, and this summer Amir moved to Louisville with the children: Goshany, Khadija, Fatuma and Sidi Ali – ranging in age from 2 to 8.

Biyad found them, and police say that on Oct. 6 he attacked his wife with a mallet, then stabbed and slashed his children to death. Amir remains hospitalized; her family won’t release details.

“It was so sad and sorry, what happened,” said Abanur Saidi, an immigration case worker with Catholic Charities in Louisville, which helps refugees learn English, find homes and get jobs.

Amir and Biyad are Bantus, a persecuted minority composed of more than 400 different ethnic groups united by a common language and some customs in Somalia. Most were farmers.

Many Bantus fled Somalia, torn by civil war and violence since 1991. About 12,500 came to the United States, spread out in 50 cities in 38 states, with 600 to 700 living in Louisville.

Biyad and Amir arrived in Oregon in 2004. Omar Eno, director of the National Somali Bantu Project in Portland, said the couple sought help from his agency to learn English and find work.

Both picked up the language and tried to fit it with the Somali community, but there were problems, friends said.

Basko Kante, who worked with Biyad on the board of the African Community Coalition in Portland, said Biyad sometimes talked about problems in his marriage but didn’t give a lot of details. Kante said the difference in their ages – Biyad is 42 and Amir is 29 – may have played a role.

“He kept saying people were interfering with his marriage … his countrymen, statesmen,” Kante said. “Otherwise, there was no hint of violent behavior.”

Police were called to the couple’s home in March 2005, for a domestic violence call, according to a police report. It turned out to be only a verbal dispute, according to the report, but afterward Amir drank bleach and was taken to a hospital. No charges were filed.

Eno and Dan Van Lehman, deputy director of the National Somali Bantu Project, said they had heard about possible domestic problems at the couple’s home but did not know the details or the scope.

“There’s a fair amount of marriage and divorce in the community,” Van Lehman said.

This past summer, Amir and the children moved out. A friend of the family, Hassan Muya, said Portland had become unlivable for her because of the marital problems.

According to Van Lehman, Amir said little about where she was going.

“I didn’t know where she was leaving to,” Van Lehman said.

The move to Louisville brought Amir near her brother, Osman Noor, Saidi said.

Biyad, meanwhile, told friends that his wife had “bolted,” Kante said.

“He didn’t know where she was, where the lady was with the children,” Kante said.

It wasn’t until late summer that Biyad found his wife, Kante said. He said he didn’t know how Biyad found Amir, but recalled him saying his wife wanted to reunite in Kentucky.

Biyad had been in Louisville only a couple of weeks when Amir and the children were attacked.

Afterward, police said, Biyad walked into police headquarters and said: “I just killed my family.” He told investigators his wife was disrespectful of him, police Lt. Steve Green said.

Prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek the death penalty in the four murder charges against Biyad.

Eno said he’s afraid people might draw the wrong conclusion about the Bantus from what happened between Biyad and his family.

“It’s an individual thing,” Eno said. “It doesn’t derive from the community. It’s personal.”

AP-ES-10-14-06 1614EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.