On March 16, 2012, Abu Mansur al-Amriki (aka Omar Hammami) released a video expressing fear for his life within al-Shabaab due to ideological and strategic differences–an event that caused a stir among Somalia news followers.
Adding more drama, Gedo Online recently gave a detailed account of an alleged meeting during the week of April 4 to discuss the fate of al-Amriki between al-Shabaab leaders, which was interrupted after news of his purported execution at a checkpoint between the southern Somalia towns of Marka and Baraawe.
The report speculates that al-Shabaab top leader Ahmed Abdi Godane (Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr) was responsible–which fits into a larger narrative that he is seeking to consolidate power in the group.
Despite multiple reports alleging the execution, no official statement from al-Shabaab has confirmed his death.
Notably, in March 2011, Somalia’s defense minister said that al-Amriki may have died in fighting around Mogadishu, but these reports turned out to be untrue.
For what it’s worth, today the self-proclaimed editor of al-Shabaab’s media wing al-Kataib asserted al-Amriki was alive and well in a recent tweet:
I would not describe this as an official confirmation–per se–but it does warrant media outlets and analysts to provide the necessary caveats as speculation continues about his fate.
One thing is clear: the fragmentation within al-Shabaab is real. One Somalia analyst argues that al-Shabaab is still cohesive enough to carry out successful operations–especially compared to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). But this series of events–in addition to criticisms recently levied by the group’s spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys–points to a more serious dilemma for al-Shabaab leadership in the future.
As more al-Shabaab fighters flee to Puntland or Yemen due to pressure from TFG-allied operations to rout the group, a big question remains how this will affect the capacity of al-Shabaab’s leaders to reconcile their very public grievances against each other in order to stay united.