A Jordanian member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was the nephew of former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed in a drone strike earlier this year, according to a martyrdom statement that was released by a jihadist.
A jihadist close to Muhammad Fazi al Harasheh, who was also known as Abu Hammam al Zarqawi, released the martyrdom statement on the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Mujahideen forum on June 20. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The date and location of Abu Hammam’s death were not disclosed. He was initially reported to have been killed in a landmine attack, in a statement released on jihadist forums on May 8, according to SITE. The US is known to have conducted 13 drone strikes in southern Yemen between the beginning of April and the date his death was announced. Three of those strikes took place in Abyan province, where Abu Hammam was known to operate.
According to the jihadist, “spies” aided in the killing of Abu Hammam in a drone strike as he traveled in a vehicle.
“They were unable to kill him in the battles, so they sent spies to guide them to him,” the statement said. “A drone came to bomb the car in which he and one of the brother were riding, and so his pure soul went to its maker.”
Abu Hammam traveled to Yemen sometime last year and “entered the ranks of the mujahideen at the end of 2011.” He “pledged allegiance to Sheikh Nasir al Wuhayshi,” the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its political front, Ansar al Sharia. Wuhayshi served as Osama bin Laden’s aide de camp prior to traveling to Yemen to wage jihad.
The jihadist who wrote the martyrdom statement described Abu Hammam as “one of the hardest mujahideen on the enemies of Allah,” who earned the nickname the “Lion of Zinjibar.” According to other fighters, Abu Hammam “killed more than 26 apostates from the vagrants of America, and … he slaughtered number 26 like a sheep.”
Path to jihad in Yemen
Abu Hammam grew up in the city of Zarqa, the Jordanian city, a known hotbed for Islamists. His mother was the sister of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the brutal leader of al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a US airstrike in Baqubah in June 2006. Zarqawi founded Jamaat al Tawhid wal Jihad (the Monotheism and Jihad Group) in the 1990s with the intent of overthrowing the Jordanian monarchy, but moved his operations to Afghanistan and then Iraq. Zarqawi’s group officially merged with al Qaeda in Iraq in 2004.
Abu Hammam was “influenced by the writings of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam,” the cofounder of al Qaeda, and Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, the radical Jordanian cleric who was Zarqawi’s mentor. “He was very influenced by the Mujahid Sheikh Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and one of the sheikhs that he loved the most was Sheikh Abu al Mundhir,” presumably Abu al Mandhar al Shanqiti, the radical cleric who has issued fatwas, or religious edicts, that urged Muslims to attack Egyptian Christians.
Abu Hammam’s preachers were “of the city of al-Zarqa, in the neighborhood of Ma’soum, the neighborhood of martyrs and heroes,” the jihadist claimed. “The whole world bears witness that this neighborhood gave forth Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and most of the martyrs of Iraq are from this city….”
In both 2003 and 2004Abu Hammam traveled to Iraq to wage jihad, and was imprisoned for several months upon his return. In 2003, “he enlisted with the Arab volunteers, but this was not what he was looking for,” the jihadist says, intimating that Abu Hammam did not find like-minded Islamists to fight along side. In 2004, Abu Hammam linked up with his uncle, Zarqawi, who “tasked him with a mission, which was to return to Jordan.”
In 2005, Abu Hammam was again imprisoned after being captured while trying to travel to Iraq. He was released after several months, and little is known of his activities from 2005 until 2011, when he traveled to Yemen. He appears to have served as a recruiter, as the jihadist stated that Abu Hammam “was the brother who would incite the most for deploying to Syria, Iraq and Yemen.” The jihadist said also that Abu Hammam had participated in anti-government demonstrations in Zarqa.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.