U.S. jihadi reportedly is slain in Somalia

Alabama native used rap videos, Twitter to spread messages


Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- An American who became one of Somalia's most visible Islamic rebels and was on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list with a $5 million bounty on his head was killed Thursday by rivals in the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab, militants said.

The killing of Omar Hammami, an Alabama native known for his rap-filled propaganda videos, may discourage other would-be jihadis from the U.S. and elsewhere from traveling to Somalia, terrorism experts said.

Mr. Hammami, whose nom de guerre was Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or "the American," was killed in an ambush in southern Somalia following months on the run after falling out with al-Shabab's top leader, the militants said.

Reports of Mr. Hammami's death have cropped up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface. But J.M. Berger, a U.S. terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabab, said he thinks the current reports are accurate.

The rebels did not immediately present proof of Mr. Hammami's death.

Mr. Hammami was highly critical of al-Shabab's leadership over the past year and freely shared his views in Internet videos and on Twitter, making him a marked man.

Somalia has long been an attractive destination for foreign fighters, and al-Shabab counts several hundred foreign fighters among its ranks, including about two dozen Somali-Americans from Minneapolis recruited over the past several years.

Mr. Hammami's death will hurt the group's recruitment efforts, said Abdirizak Bihi, an advocate for the Somali community in Minnesota and the uncle of a young man killed in Somalia in 2008.

"We always knew the Somalis inside Somalia knew that al-Shabab was bad," Mr. Bihi said. "We were concerned about the Somalis in the diaspora ... who never really knew the facts on the ground and were always manipulated and misled.

"So that's why it's a victory. They now know exactly what al-Shabab is, as much as the Somalis inside."

Terrorism expert Clint Watts wrote on his blog, Selectedwisdom.com, that Mr. Hammami's plight "probably soured recruitment pipelines from the West into Somalia."

Along with Adam Gadahn in Pakistan -- a former Osama bin Laden spokesman -- the 29-year-old Mr. Hammami was one of the two most notorious Americans in jihadi groups. Mr. Hammami grew up in Daphne, Ala., a community of 20,000 outside Mobile, the son of a Christian mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father.

His YouTube videos that featured him rapping and his presence on Twitter made him one of the most recognizable and studied U.S. foreign fighters. The FBI put Mr. Hammami on its Most Wanted Terrorist list in 2012 and offered a $5 million reward in March for information leading to his capture.

U.S. prosecutors had charged Mr. Hammami with providing material support to terrorists.

world


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here