A videotape of Omar Hammami in which he urges “commanders of jihad and the honorable scholars” to intervene to resolve “friction” between foreign fighters and Somali members of Shabaab was released on the Internet yesterday. Hammami, the American terrorist also known as Abu Mansour al Amriki, who has served as a Shabaab military commander, propagandist, recruiter, and fundraiser, has previously stated that his life is in danger.
The videotape, titled “An Urgent Message,” was released on the YouTube account of somalimuhajirwarrior, the same account used to upload other statements since March. Hammami’s statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, is in Arabic.
The videotape was recorded at the same time as the March 16, 2012 video in which Hammami claimed he was in danger but did not specify why [see LWJ report, American terrorist feels ‘life may be endangered’ by Shabaab]. In both videos, Hammami appears against the exact same backdrop (seated in front of an al Qaeda flag pinned to a white wall), is wearing the same clothes, and the AK-47 is positioned in the same spot.
In the videotape that was released yesterday, Hammami warns of a “bitter state of being that surrounds the emigrants of Somalia,” a reference to foreign fighters or al Qaeda, and asks jihadists, clerics, and commanders to intervene with “a radical solution.”
Hammami says that historically “a type of friction” exists “between the people of the global jihad and the people of the local way of thinking.”
“I witnessed important parts of this history during my friction with the men of al Qaeda like Abu Talha al Sudani, Abu Abdullah al Sudani, Abu Mansour al Bayhani, Saleh al Nabhan, and Abu Fadl al Qamri,” Hammami says, naming top al Qaeda leaders in East Africa who have been killed over the past several years. “The conflict that was taking place in Somalia between those men and between the emirs of [unclear] is still continuing, after some were captured and the majority martyred.”
Hammami says that personal and religious differences have fueled the conflicts between the groups, and warns that the faction that seeks to wage “global jihad” may lose.
“We are afraid that this conflict might end soon in the favor of those who don’t want the battalions of global jihad to take off from the Land of the Two Emigrations [Somalia] to bother the disbelievers and destroy their interests around the world. Worse than that, we are afraid that this end will come in an unfavorable way of oppression, imprisonment and domestic fighting,” he says.
Although rumors of tensions between Somali Shabaab commanders and foreign al Qaeda leaders in Shabaab have been reported in the past, there is no evidence that the groups have come to blows due to the differences. Shabaab officially merged with al Qaeda in early February after years of operating closely together. Many top Shabaab leaders have been members of al Qaeda.
Hammami himself has been rumored to have been killed or imprisoned by Shabaab after releasing the March 16 video, but he released an autobiography on May 16, which was signed “Still alive and well (by May 16 2012), Omar Hammami, Somaalia.” Eight days later, a picture of Hammami posing with his autobiography was released.
On the following day, May 25, Hammami released a four-part statement calling for jihadists to declare a global Islamic caliphate.
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.”
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 top al Qaeda leaders 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.