Omar Hammami’s personal dispute with Shabaab


Over the past week, a jihadist who calls himself “@abuamerican” and “Abu M” on Twitter launched into a tirade against Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia. Abu M, who describes himself as a “Mujaahid in Somaalia,” is purportedly linked to American jihadist Omar Hammami, the Alabaman traitor and al Qaeda operative who calls himself Abu Mansour al Amriki. Hammami has claimed he is being persecuted by Shabaab for publicizing a purported split between foreign jihadists and local Shabaab forces. But Hammami’s dispute with Shabaab is more likely due to personal issues with Shabaab’s leadership, as there have been no other credible reports of foreign fighters being at odds with the al Qaeda affiliate.

Hammami has been feuding with Shabaab since March 2012, when he released a short video claiming his life was in danger. In October, Hammami released another video, in which he claimed that “friction” exists between Shabaab and foreign fighters. The October video was clearly recorded at the same time as the March video.

After Hammami’s release of the first video in March, Shabaab quickly denied his claim that the group threatened to kill him. Shabaab did not speak publicly about the supposed feud until last month, when the group accused the American of being a narcissist who has been manufacturing the supposed split for personal fame.

In Shabaab’s Dec. 18 statement addressing the Hammami kerfuffle, the group said it “hereby declares that Abu Mansour al Amriki [Hammami] does not, in any way, shape or form, represent the views of the Muhajireen [emigrants or foreign fighters] in Somali.”

“The opinions expressed by Abu Mansour, the alleged frictions and the video releases are merely the results of personal grievances that stem purely from a narcissistic pursuit of fame and are far removed from the reality on the ground,” Shabaab continued.

Abu M launched into the latest attack on Shabaab with a single tweet on Dec. 31, 2012 [Abu M’s full list of tweets from Dec. 31, 2012 to Jan. 4 are listed below]. In that tweet, Abu M said that “Shabab aren’t the khilaafah [the Caliphate] and muslims aren’t their slaves. Being shabab isn’t oblig [obligatory] and spreading jihad is.”

On Jan. 4, Abu M claimed that Shabaab had issued an ultimatum to surrender in 15 days or face execution.

“Shabab make off annoucement in front of amriki: drop ur weapon b4 15 days or be killed. Its on,” Abu M tweeted.

The next day, Abu M spoke as Hammami and said that he asks “Allah to make my death like sa’iid bin jubayr…the end of somalia’s hajjaaj” [emphasis ours]. Sa’id ibn Jubayr was a religious scholar and companion of the fourth Imam and was beheaded by an Arab politician known as Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. Abu M may in fact be Hammami (the style of writing at the Abu M Twitter page is similar to Hammami’s), or one of his associates, such as Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax (a.k.a. Abdullah al Amriki), another American jihadist, who was pictured with Hammami in December 2011.

Abu M then fired off 26 tweets, which accused Shabaab of persecuting, imprisoning, and killing foreign fighters; executing civilians; hoarding the spoils of war; unfairly taxing civilians; allowing prostitution and drugs in some areas under Shabaab control; and other crimes.

Abu M even likened Shabaab to the Nazis in their use of bureaucracy.

“Like hitler they intentionally inject bureaucracy into the hierarchy out of psycho fear of a coup,” he tweeted.

Hammami the only foreign jihadist known to have quarreled with Shabaab

While some analysts have portrayed the feud between Hammami and Shabaab as evidence of a divide between foreign al Qaeda fighters and the Somali leaders, the likelihood is that Hammami allowed his personal grievances with the terror group to spill out into the open.

Other than Hammami’s statements, there is no credible evidence of other foreign fighters having had problems with Shabaab’s leaders. Despite the deaths of top al Qaeda operatives Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Fazul Mohammed, both of whom were senior leaders in Shabaab, foreigners continue to play a significant role in Shabaab’s command structure [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda leaders play significant role in Shabaab].

Less than two months before Hammami released his first tape claiming he was in danger of being killed by Shabaab, the terror group announced its official merger with al Qaeda. The merger was endorsed by al Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al Zawahiri. Immediately after the merger, the Muslim Youth Center (MYC), an Islamist terror group based in Kenya, announced that MYC is part of al Qaeda in East Africa, and has since issued numerous statements endorsing Shabaab and jihad in Somalia. Tanzanian jihadists, including some associated with MYC, have also praised the Somali terror group. Neither group has indicated that there is a problem with their fighters being sent into Somalia to fight alongside Shabaab. Additionally, Shabaab receives significant support and fighters from Somali populations in the US and Europe.

And despite Hammami’s claim that Shabaab was preventing foreign fighters from leaving the country, it is well known that hundreds of Shabaab fighters have traveled to Yemen to support al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Additionally, small numbers of Shabaab commanders and fighters have been spotted in Mali and Nigeria.

In addition, the report of a dispute last year between senior Shabaab leader Sheikh Abu Mansur Robow and Shabaab emir Sheikh Muktar Abu Zubayr Godane over the merger with al Qaeda turned out to be false. Shabaab denied the authenticity of an interview by a Somali newspaper with Robow on the alleged dispute and other matters, calling the report “manufactured.”

Hammami may have overplayed his hand

Hammami’s quarrel with Shabaab appears to be related to two key disagreements: his apparent demotion in late 2011, and his open criticism of Shabaab over military strategy.


Al Qaeda “representative” Abu Abdullah al Muhajir [left]; and Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, Shabaab’s top spokesman. Image from Reuters.

In October 2011, Hammami’s influence as the premier foreign Western jihadist was jeopardized when Abu Abdullah al Muhajir, an American, arrived in Somalia to dispense food, clothing, and Korans to Somali civilians at the behest of al Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al Zawahiri. Al Muhajir also appeared on video with Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, a top Shabaab spokesman [see LWJ report, American al Qaeda operative distributes aid at Somali relief camp].

Prior to al Muhajir’s arrival 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. But just months after al Muhajir’s appearance in Somalia, Hammami was on the outs with Shabaab. Al Muhajir’s appointment by Zawahiri as his personal emissary may have been perceived as a slight by Hammami, who, if his writings and propaganda videos are any indication, has an inflated opinion of himself.

Additionally, Hammami is known to have carried on a very public dispute with Shabaab over its military strategy. Hammami was critical of Shabaab’s and its predecessors, the Islamic Court, strategy during the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia late 2006. Hammami argued that Shabaab wasted fighters and resources by waging open warfare against a militarily superior enemy, and that the group instead should have carefully withdrawn its forces and waged a guerrilla campaign. Hammami’s contempt for the 2006-2007 campaign was on public display when he released his narcissistic autobiography in May 2012 [see LWJ report, Omar Hammami releases part 1 of autobiography].

Considering Hammami’s open dispute with Shabaab’s leadership, the terror group has been remarkably tolerant of his antics. While Hammami has supposedly only been under house arrest, he still appears to have access to the Internet as well as his sympathetic associates.

Although Hammami has repeatedly claimed that his life is in danger, he remains alive to this day. Other al Qaeda affiliates and allied groups have executed dissenters for far more benign statements. Shabaab waited eight months before publicly weighing in on Hammami’s statements and his autobiography, and even then sought to bring him back into the fold, at least according to Shabaab.

“The Mujahideen have been offering advice to Abu Mansour [Hammami] in private, without publicly rebuking him, employing every possible avenue to veil his faults, overlook his shortcomings and conceal the egregious errors he’d committed ….” Shabaab said in its mid-December statement.

Tweets by Abu M, or @abuamerican, from Dec. 31, 2012 to Jan. 4, 2013:

The following tweets are listed in reverse order; the most recent tweets, from Jan. 4, are at the top.

4h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Prior to that by a week or so a brother in the same house was imp for disobedience. One of those killed was warned

4h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Two brothers close to amriki were myst killed by ghost commandos on inv boats in barawe on dark rainy night

4h abu m ‏@abumamerican

One brother’s wife came to the border and was refused entry by shabab, jailed on return. Expl verse against that

4h abu m ‏@abumamerican

One brother was given permission to leave. Once he reached the border he was ordered to return, shot in the leg

4h abu m ‏@abumamerican

One brother was forced to the border twice. He almost died of thirst. Upon return they imprisoned him for being a new group!

4h abu m ‏@abumamerican

One brother was locked in a room for 3 months with no charge or questioning. He ran away and got caught

4h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Two brothers were imprisoned in guantanamo cond b4 being forced out, captured immed and labeled huge aq

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Berger.. The godwins were amriki’s nextdoor neighbors.

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Embezzeling and shar’i infractions are overlooked, but God help u if caught with a plastic bag or tinted windows. Really

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

We’ve passed the era of apostates claiming to be muj. Now nationalists are taking the cloak of hardcore globalists

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Anyone who performs a legit kidnapping even outside somalia is jailed. Financial indep is highly shunned

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Covenants are given, often to ngos, only to be spontaneously revoked or violated at will. Khiyaanah in general is applauded

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Like hitler they intentionally inject bureaucracy into the hierarchy out of psycho fear of a coup

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

They use terms like nidaam/maslahah and fawda to subsitute for halal/waajib and haram

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

They make new terms like sha’b to prohibit anyone from repelling the invader who doesn’t sub to the shabab cult

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Due 2 strategic incomp and lack of concern 4 muslim blood muj are led into impl human waves against sup enemy

5h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Diaspora somali can come open a shop. Somali who leaves shabab can 2. Muhajir is under house arrest immed 24/7

7h abu m ‏@abumamerican

The oromo, kenyans, and sudanis are prohibited from working toward freeing their lands while in somalia

7h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Demographics show the majority of muj are from raxanweyn while they have the least share in leadership roles

8h abu m ‏@abumamerican

The vast majority of qaadhis arent qualified or take bribes. Huduud are brushed under the rug for maslahah

8h abu m ‏@abumamerican

The Prophet beat kafirs 4 things certain. The shabab torture muslims 2 find uncertain proofs 2 sub why they jailed

8h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Shabab actively send people to act like apostates. Infil. But well known fighters are jailed at the mere notion of poss. apos.

8h abu m ‏@abumamerican

War booty is eaten by the top dogs, but the guys who won it are jailed for touching it. A gun, bullets, some beans is their lot

8h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Each shabab city has a redlight district where qaat is halal. Other parts its haram/jail. But they take taxes on it.

8h abu m ‏@abumamerican

Shabab fought yusuf indacade for taking taxes and killing innocents despite being muslim at the time. 4 legs good

13h abu m ‏@abumamerican

To the somali twitter haters: ure somali. U have an interest in making urself look good. Amriki doesnt. He says it like it is.

13h abu m ‏@abumamerican

I ask Allah to make my death like sa’iid bin jubayr…the end of somalia’s hajjaaj.

4 Jan abu m ‏@abumamerican

Shabab make off annoucement in front of amriki: drop ur weapon b4 15 days or be killed. Its on.

31 Dec abu m ‏@abumamerican

BLUF Shabab aren’t the khilaafah and muslims aren’t their slaves. Being shabab isn’t oblig and spreading jihad is.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Hibeam says:

    I like the Bullwinkle antlers hat. Nice touch.

  • Thomas says:

    I disagree with your repeated claim that there have not been any other disputes/splits between Shabaab, other than with Hammami.
    It is known for a fact, that Shabaab have always had disputes with rival groups.
    Immediately following the Ethiopian withdrawal around 2009, the Somali groups had already divided into several splinters. With Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, being the ones continuing to fight against the TFG, and rival Islamists (such as Sheikh Sharif and the Sufis) allying with the government.
    Soon after, Shabab engaged in repetitive clashes with Hizbul Islam. Including a major clash over control of the port city of Kismayo. Which they successfully grabbed away from Hizbul Islam. This was in Nov/Oct 2009.
    One of Hizbul Islam’s own factions, the Ras Kamboni Brigades, defected to join Al-Shabab. This was in Feb 2010.
    In early Dec 2010, there were more clashes between Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabab over control of territory. Following Shabab threats to behead the Hizbul prisoners, Hizbul surrendered on Dec 20, 2010, which Al-Shabab announced to their crony media/forums as a “merger”.
    By early-2012, Sheikh Dahir Aweys had started to express his doubts and criticisms over Al-Shabab and its tactics. Including a radio interview he gave in March 2012, for which the English translation was done by Flashpoint:
    By Sept 2012, Sheikh Dahir Aweys and his group had once again split with Al-Shabab.
    I have not seen any mention of these events in your article. The rivalries between Shabab and others are well-known, if one only looks into it. Furthermore, there are clan differences, that have also been covered by some other blogs.

  • Dani says:

    There is a drone out there with his name on it. His parents must be proud of him.
    Any chance on getting some background info on him, regarding his upbringing and where he is from in the US ??

  • EDDIED. says:

    Settle it with both of you shooting RQGs at each other.

  • mike merlo says:

    very cool. An al Qaeda celebrity ‘cat fight’

  • Larry says:

    This seems like something I would expect out of a bunch of 14 year old kids “dissing” each other on FB. Just look at the writing…

    “Shabab make off annoucement in front of amriki: drop ur weapon b4 15 days or be killed. Its on,”

    HUH??? What a bunch of idiots.

  • EDDIED. says:

    I think you should shoot it out to settle your differences.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thomas, are attributing arguments to me that I never made. I said there is no evidence that their is a major split between Shabaab and the foreign fighter contingent. I did not say that there has never been disagreements between jihadists in Somalia. Of course there has.
    Additionally, Aweys’ group hasn’t split from Shabaab. That was a false report (just as it was in 2011). There are many such false reports like these that abound. That doesn’t mean Aweys doesn’t have issues with Zubayr, mind you…

  • My2Cents says:

    They need to target Abu Abdullah al Muhajir and leak that Omar Hammami supplied the information. Breed some more paranoia into al-Qaeda and company.
    Plus they will probably be far more imaginative about Omar Hammami demise.

  • gb says:

    Anyone want to offer up an opinion on how this dispute will be handled proving bad feelings continue to escalate? Would Shabaab be so bold as to kill Amriki in a public manner and risk the potential fallout of alienating other foreign jihadi’s? Since they have publicly aligned themselves with al Qaeda would Zwahari need to sanction a dismemberment video?


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