Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, has broken its nearly 12-month silence on Omar Hammami, the American commander who served with the terrorist group and has claimed his life was in danger due to divisions between Somali jihadists and foreign fighters. The terror group now states that Hammami was not a senior member of the group and that he has manufactured a false controversy for personal gain over the issue of divisions between local Somali jihadists.
The Somali terror group released the statement yesterday on Hammami, who is also known as Abu Mansour al Amriki. Earlier this year Hammami issued two videos: one in March in which he claimed his life was in danger, and another in October in which he said he was threatened due to divisions between local and foreign jihadists [see LWJ reports, American terrorist feels ‘life may be endangered’ by Shabaab, and Omar Hammami says ‘friction’ exists between Shabaab, foreign fighters]. Both videos were shot at the same time. Shabaab issued a statement in March denying that Hammami was in danger.
Yesterday’s official statement from Shabaab, titled “Abu Mansour al Amriki: A Candid Clarification,” was posted on Shabaab’s official Twitter account. Shabaab claims that the videos released by Hammami (who is referred to as Abu Mansour in the statement) were portrayed in the media as evidence that “deep ideological differences were begin to devour the Mujahideen.” The terror group rejects the depiction, and accuses Hammami of being a narcissist.
Shabaab “hereby declares that Abu Mansour al Amriki does not, in any way, shape or form, represent the views of the Muhajireen [emigrants or foreign fighters] in Somalia,” the statement says. “The opinions expressed by Abu Mansour, the alleged frictions and the video releases are merely the results of personal grievances that stem purely from a narcissistic pursuit of fame and are far removed from the reality on the ground.”
Shabaab then denies that Hammami holds a senior or even a middle-level leadership position within the ranks of the terror group.
“[C]ontrary to portrait of the grand strategist, recruiter and fund-raiser portrayed by the Western media, Abu Mansur Al-Amriki does not hold any position of authority within [Shabaab],” the statement says.
Shabaab says it remained silent on the issue of Hammami as “the Mujahideen have been offering advice to Abu Mansour in private, without publicly rebuking him, employing every possible avenue to veil his faults, overlook his shortcomings and conceal the egregious errors he’d committed ….”
The group explains that it decided to denounce Hammami only after he refused its advice: “[I]t becomes religiously and morally incumbent upon the Mujahideen to publicly advise the Muslim Ummah [community] of his obstinacy and insistence on sowing disunity among the vanguards of this Ummah.”
Shabaab then accuses Hammami of attempting to sow discord in the rank and file just as the African Union and Somali forces were ousting the terror group from their strongholds south of Mogadishu in March, and then from Kismayo in October.
“Hence, the timing of the releases and the convergence of the entire East African nations upon the Mujahideen were not entirely coincidental occurrences but a calculated attempt to draw attention to the alleged voices of dissent within the ranks of the Mujahideen at a time when theywere most likely to be under pressure from their enemies so as to cultivate the destructive seeds of disunity,” Shabaab states.
Shabaab then apologizes “to the Muslim Ummah in general and our Mujahideen brothers in all the fields of Jihad in particular for having to witness such childish petulance in one of the theatres of Jihad, from its tracks or the spirit of this great Ummah dampened by the superficial allegations, frivolous ramblings and whimsical desires of those who wish to enhance their image at the price of Jihad and the Mujahideen, spreading discord and disunity in the process.”
The Somali terror group does not indicate what is to be done with Hammami after essentially accusing him of treasonous acts. Nor does Shabaab state whether Hammami is in its custody.
Background on Omar Hammami
Hammami has served 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.
In May 2011, 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. During the rally, Hammani appeared with other top al Qaeda-linked Shabaab leaders, including Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.
“We are all Osama,” Hammami told the crowd as he spoke at a podium. 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 while eulogizing bin Laden. “May Allah accept our dear beloved sheikh [Osama bin Laden] and cause our swords to become instruments of his avenging.”
Prior to this year, Hammami had played a crucial role in Shabaab’s propaganda efforts to recruit Western fighters to join Shabaab’s jihad in Somalia. In December 2011 and January 2012, Hammami appeared in photographs with a Western fighter. The Long War Journal identified the fighter as Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, an American who recruited for the terror group and left the US in October 2009 to wage jihad in Somalia. Faarax is wanted by the FBI.
Hammami was reported to have been killed in a US airstrike in March 2011, but one month later he released a nasheed, or song, that mocked the reports [see LWJ report, American Shabaab commander Omar Hammami releases tape that mocks reports of his death]. 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 Saleh Nabhan, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
This year, Hammami issued an unauthorized autobiography, and then later released a photograph of himself holding up a copy of the work. The photograph ended the rumors that he had been executed by Shabaab for releasing the video in March in which he claimed his life was in danger.
For more information on Hammami, see LWJ reports, American Shabaab commander speaks at rally for Osama bin Laden in Somalia and US adds American, Kenyan Shabaab leaders to list of designated terrorists.