The US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program posted $5 million rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of two Americans who have served in leadership positions in Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia. One of the Americans, Jehad Serwan Mostafa, is believed to have served as an emissary for Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir, the FBI told The Long War Journal. The other, Omar Hammami, is currently engaged in a personal dispute with Shabaab.
The $5 million rewards offered for Mostafa and Hammami match that of 37 other terrorists in the Rewards for Justice program. The program offers a higher reward for only seven other terrorist leaders and operatives. Ayman al Zawahiri tops the list at $25 million.
Mostafa “has performed various functions for al Shabaab, including acting as a training camp instructor and a leader of foreign fighters,” the Rewards for Justice fact sheet stated. “He is also skilled in the group’s media activities.” In 2005, he left California and traveled to Somalia to wage jihad. “He may have or is likely to visit the following areas: Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Kenya, and other African countries,” the statement continued.
In October 2009, Mostafa was charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and conspiracy to support terrorists and foreign terrorist groups.
Mostafa is also known as Emir Anwar, Ahmed Gurey, and Anwar al-Amriki. But one other nom de guerre that he goes by is Abu Abdullah al Muhajir, which is the same name used by the representative of Ayman al Zawahiri who distributed aid to Shabaab [see LWJ report, American al Qaeda operative distributes aid at Somali relief camp].
In November 2011, Abu Abdullah al Muhajir was seen on a Shabaab propaganda videotape that showed him distributing aid to Somalis at a relief camp just south of the capital of Mogadishu.
Muhajir was photographed with most of his face, except for his eyes, covered, along with Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, Shabaab’s top spokesman. He handed out food, clothing, and Korans to Somalis at the camps. Muhajir said he was distributing the aid on behalf of Zawahiri. Just two months after the release of the tape, Shabaab officially merged with al Qaeda.
The Long War Journal asked the FBI unit that investigates Shabaab if it believes that Mostafa and Abu Abdullah al Muhajir are the same person. A spokesperson for the FBI’s Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit responded: “Yes we do.”
$5 million reward for Omar Hammami
The Rewards for Justice program has also offered a $5 million reward for Omar Hammami, the notorious American from Alabama who has fallen from grace with Shabaab after launching a public and personal feud with the terror group [see LWJ report, Omar Hammami’s personal dispute with Shabaab].
Hammami, who is better known as Abu Mansour al Amriki, is the most well-known foreign fighter in Somalia. Hammami occupied a prominent place in Shabaab’s propaganda arm. He also served as a recruiter, financier, and military commander. He was even seen with Shabaab’s top leaders at a public eulogy for slain al Qaeda emir and founder Osama bin Laden in May 2011. The US added him to the list of specially designated global terrorists in July 2011.
But after Abu Abdullah al Muhajir (whom the FBI believes to be Mostafa) appeared in the video in November 2011, Hammami’s star was in decline. In early 2012, Hammami released a video claiming his life was in danger and said that foreigner fighters are at odds with Shabaab’s leaders. Shabaab has disputed the claims, and has countered that Hammami is a narcissistic self-promoter who has taken advantage of his high-profile media presence to sow dissent between the Somali group and foreign fighters. Other than Hammami’s claims, there is little evidence to support the assertion that there is a split between Shabaab and the “muhajireen,” or immigrants or foreign fighters.