Shabaab has not denied rumors of Omar Hammami's death
Earlier today, The Associated Press reported that Shabaab published a statement on its website denying rumors that Omar Hammami, an American who serves as a top Shabaab military commander, had been executed by the terror group. From the AP, emphasis is mine:
An al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group says its American commander who was feared dead in early April is still alive.
Al-Shabab militants released a statement on their website Thursday saying Omar Hammami is in "areas under the control of Islam." The group denied he had been killed.
The problem with the AP report is that Somalimemo.net, the website that released the statement, is not an official Shabaab website. Abdulkadir M. Wa'ays, a former United Nations researcher and a leading authority on Shabaab who is based in Belgium, told The Long War Journal the following:
I can confirm to you that al-Shabaab had not issued any official statement on the matter as yet and that the AP is just using as [an official] Shabaab statement an opinion piece published by a pro-Shabaab Somali language website Somalimemo.net, which is not, BTW, al-Shabaab's official website as reported by the AP.
The SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the statement from Somalimemo.net, gets it right when it describes Somalimemo.net as a "Shabaab-supporting news outlet." Below is a portion of the translation of the article from Somalimemo.net. You can see that the statement is not an official press release from Shabaab, but a 'news report' from the website:
A reliable source confirmed to SomaliMemo that al-Amriki is not in danger and that he safely lives in some parts of the Islamic provinces in Somalia.
"Abu Mansour is not in trouble... he lives in peace. It is not true that he has been killed; he is not even in danger." This is what we have quoted from a reliable source that is close to the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement.
Now, this is probably the most reliable piece of information yet to indicate that Hammami may indeed be alive, but it certainly is not an official statement from Shabaab.
Hammami released a video on March 16 in which he claimed that his '"life may be endangered" but he did not tell us why. One day later, Shabaab officially responded that Hammami is "not endangered by the Mujahideen." In the beginning of April, a rumor surfaced that Hammami had been executed by Shabaab, but the terror group still refuses to comment publicly on reports of Hammami's death.