US adds American, Kenyan Shabaab leaders to list of designated terrorists
Omar Hammami gives a public eulogy for Osama bin Laden in May in Afgoye. Reuters photo.
On July 29, the US Treasury Department targeted two senior leaders of Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, designating them as global terrorists. The designation allows the US to freeze the assets of the two leaders, prevent them from using financial institutions, and prosecute them for terrorist activities.
The two men were identified as Omar Hammani and Hassan Mahat Omar. Hammani, an American citizen, was described as a senior military commander and recruiter who is directly linked to al Qaeda, while Omar, a Kenyan citizen, is said to be a senior leader, ideologue, recruiter, and fundraiser.
The American: Omar Hammami
Omar Hammami and Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour, at the bin Laden rally in Afgoye.
Treasury described Hammami "as one of al Shabaab's key figures," and said he serves as a "military tactician, recruitment strategist, and financial manager" for the Somali terror group.
"Hammami has commanded guerilla forces in combat, organized attacks and plotted strategy with al Qaeda," the Treasury press release stated. "He was also involved in organizing a suicide bombing attack carried out by a Somali-American from Minnesota who traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab. That attack, and four others organized by Hammami and carried out in October 2008, killed more than 20 people."
Hammami is also linked to "an attempt to increase recruiting among Somalis, including Somali émigrés in the United States" as he was "featured in an al Shabaab video in which militia members are shown training and explicitly stating their allegiance to Osama bin Laden."
While not stated in the Treasury designation, Hammami, who is also known as Abu Mansoor al Amriki ("the American"), spoke at a public rally with other top Shabaab leaders to eulogize Osama bin Laden just 10 days after the death of the al Qaeda leader. Hammami spoke in public in Afgoye, an area south of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
During the rally, Hammani appeared with other top al Qaeda-linked Shabaab leaders, including Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour and Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys. Hammami and the other top Shabaab leaders were seen sitting in the open, unafraid of being targeted by Somali or African Union forces.
"We are all Osama," Hammami told the crowd as he spoke at a podium, according to a translation of the speech, a portion of which was published by National Post. He also said that Shabaab and al Qaeda would continue their jihad to establish a global Islamic caliphate.
"Today, we remind the Muslims that the caliphate [Islamic rule] shall soon be reborn," Hammani said. "May Allah accept our dear beloved sheikh [Osama bin Laden] and cause our swords to become instruments of his avenging."
In early March, the Somali defense minister claimed Hammami was killed during fighting in Mogadishu. But one month later, the Shabaab leader released a nasheed, or song, that mocked the reports. In the clumsy rap, Hammami said he wanted to die in a US airstrike or special operations raid, like other top al Qaeda leaders such as Abu Laith al Libi, Saleh Ali Nabhan, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
For more information on Hammami, see LWJ report, American Shabaab commander speaks at rally for Osama bin Laden in Somalia.
The Kenyan: Hassan Mahat Omar
The Treasury designation also included Hassan Mahat Omar, a previously unknown Shabaab leader who operates from Nairobi, Kenya.
Omar is described as a "a key figure in al Shabaab's efforts to recruit new members and raise funds" and "an ideological leader of al Shabaab." He also "exercises leadership and decision-making authority in al Shabaab's internal political and operational decisions."
Omar operates from a mosque in the Eastleigh section of Nairobi, where he serves as "a key leader." Omar and other Shabaab leaders use the Eastleigh mosque to "raise funds, recruit and disseminate propaganda on behalf of al Shabaab."
As a religious leader, Omar has used his position to issue fatwas, or edicts, in favor of Shabaab. His fatwas "have provided al-Shabaab with the religious justification to wage jihad against Somalia's Transitional Federal Government."