American Shabaab fighter and commander pictured together
Left and right images: Abdullah al Amriki [left] and Omar Hammami [right], from the Dec. 7, 2011 post. Images from the SITE Intelligence Group.
A Shabaab fighter recently pictured with an American citizen who serves as a senior commander in the terror group has also been identified as being an American, according to postings on jihadist web forums.
Pictures of Omar Hammami, a top Shabaab leader, with the newly identified Abdullah al Amriki, or Abdullah the American, have appeared twice on jihadist forums over the past month. The images and translations of accompanying statements have been provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The two were Americans were first seen on Dec. 17 [see picture above], but Abdullah's name was not disclosed in the first posting. The two again appeared on the Ansar al Mujahideen English Forum yesterday, when Abdullah was named [see picture, right].
Abdullah al Amriki [left] and Omar Hammami [right], from the Jan. 7, 2012 post. Images from the SITE Intelligence Group.
In the statement accompanying the Jan. 7 images, Hammami is said to have led a group of Shabaab fighters during "battles in northern Mogadishu" to take control of an unnamed province.
"When there were battles in northern Mogadishu, and Abu Mansour [Hammami] was one of their commanders who don't leave the first [front] lines, the mujahedeen wanted to take over one of the provinces," according to the SITE translation of the statement. "So, they planned to assassinate all the army commanders in this province, and every time they assassinated one of them, most of the army fled until the province fell in the hands of the brothers."
Americans join Shabaab in Somalia
Abdullah's full identity is not known. More than 50 Somali-Americans are thought to have been recruited in the US to train and fight with Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia.
Shabaab has used Americans to carry out suicide attacks twice in the past, according to J.M. Berger, the editor of Intelwire. In October 2008, a Somali man from Minneapolis named Shirwa Ahmed was one of five suicide bombers who attacked four compounds in the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland, killing 28 and wounding scores more. Three suicide car bombers struck the presidential palace, the UN Development Program compound, and the Ethiopian Consulate in the city of Hargeisa in Somaliland; and two bombers targeted an intelligence facility in the city of Bosasso in Puntland.
In May 2011, Mohamad Beledi, another American citizen, was one of two suicide bombers who attacked a base in Mogadishu, killing two African Union troops and a Somali soldier. Shabaab had identified Beledi as Abdullahi Ahmed.
Shabaab has also claimed that Americans have conducted other suicide attacks. Shabaab said an American known as Cabdi Salaam al Muhajir was one of two suicide bombers disguised as Somali Army troops along with an estimated 10 heavily armed fighters who attacked the Ugandan and Somali troops based at the German Steel Factory in northern Mogadishu on Oct. 29, 2011. And an American from Seattle, who was not named, is said to have been one of two suicide bombers who penetrated the main base in Mogadishu in an attack in September 2009. The deputy military commander for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was among the 21 people killed.
Americans are known to hold senior positions in Shabaab and al Qaeda's network in Somalia. Scores of Americans are also known to serve as foot soldiers for Shabaab.
Omar Hammami, who is also known as Abu Mansoor al Amriki, serves as a military commander, propagandist, "recruitment strategist, and financial manager" for Shabaab, and is closely linked to al Qaeda, according to the US government. Hammami is on the US's list of specially designated global terrorists.
Hammami 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.
"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.
And Abu Abdullah al Muhajir, an al Qaeda "representative" who is said to be an American citizen, recently distributed aid to a group of Somalis at a relief camp just south of the capital of Mogadishu. Muhajir said he was distributing the aid on behalf of Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's new emir, and praised slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. While Muhajir's real identity is not known, he spoke with a distinct American accent.
Shabaab has been battling Somali troops backed by African Union forces in Mogadishu made up of soldiers from the neighboring African countries of Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti. Over the last three months, Kenya invaded Somalia from the south, and Ethiopian troops, which occupied Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia from 2007 to 2009, have reentered the fray. Also, the US has provided covert military and intelligence support to the African Union forces, and has conducted airstrikes using unmanned Predators and Reapers operating from Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the Seychelles.