Nine simple, wooden coffins were carried inside a mosque, one by one, Monday afternoon before hundreds along 166th Street in the Highbridge section.

The sight of the coffins of the Magassa and Soumare family members — especially the tiny ones — as they were carried into the Islamic Cultural Center prompted many in the crowd to shake their heads in sorrow.

Twin sisters, 7 months old, shared a coffin.

The funeral was closed to the public. Even mourners who knew the family were turned away at the packed mosque because there was no room. The hundreds of mourners, some carrying prayer mats, instead sat without shoes atop blue tarps on the city street.

“Brothers, we can pray on the backs of our brother,” Sheikh Moussa Drammeh of the Islamic Leadership School said over a loudspeaker for those unable to enter the mosque.

One onlooker, who only identified himself as Guye, 21, a native of Mali, said he didn’t know anyone who died, but said a shared faith in Islam binds strangers even in a big city.

In Africa, “if there is a loss, the community comes out in droves,” he said. “It’s always been like this. If someone dies in your neighborhood, everybody is going to show up, whether you know them or not.”

According to mosque security guards, mourners came from the United States, Europe and Africa. They included Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who visited with the families and spoke briefly at the service.


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