An American who quickly rose through the ranks in Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, now says he fears the terror group may kill him.
Omar Hammami, who is also known as Abu Mansour al Amriki (“the American”), released a short, 1:09-minute-long video in which he said he fears Shabaab may kill him due to differences with strategy and the implementation of Islamic law. Hammani’s statement was posted by a jihadist known as “somalimuhajirwarrior,” or “foreign Somali warrior,” on a YouTube website earlier today, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.
“To whomever it may reach from the Muslims, from Abu Mansour al-Amriki, I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the Shariah [Islamic law] and matters of the strategy,” according to a transcript of the statement that has been provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Hammami does not explain the reason for the dispute. Rumors have persisted of divisions in Shabaab over the influence of foreign fighters in the terror group. Shabaab officially merged with al Qaeda in early February after years of operating closely together.
Hammami may have been estranged from Shabaab for several months. SITE notes that Hammami’s “last release, an English-language audio lecture titled, ‘Lessons Learned,’ released in October 2011, was not issued by the Shabaab’s media arm, al-Kata’ib, nor did it appear on Shabaab-affiliated websites, but was instead posted by a member of the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF).”
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.”
Hammami has 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. 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.
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.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.