Al-Shabaab’s most prominent American fighter Abu Mansur al-Amriki, aka Omar Hammami, has been in a tenuous state in the group since releasing a March 2012 video stating his life was in danger due to differences with leaders.
He also has issued several public criticisms of the group. Most recently, Hammami’s twitter account released a biting response to al-Shabaab’s public rebuke of the embattled American.
In a string of tweets, Hammami blamed al-Shabaab’s leadership for the exodus of foreign fighters and even implicated it in the death of several prominent foreigners working with the group in the recent past:
Just days earlier, al-Shabaab released a communiqué to address the state of Hammami.
The statement began: “In the last few months the story of Abu Mansur Al-Amriki has been playing out in the media circles, not only feeding the narrative of the Western media that deep ideological differences were beginning to devour the Mujahideen in Somalia, but also leaving the Muslim Ummah extraordinarily confounded…”
The group also officially distanced itself from al-Amriki and critiqued his “selfish” behavior:
“In the light of these events, and for the sake of clarification of the intricacies surrounding the Abu Mansur saga, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen hereby declares that Abu Mansur Al-Amriki does not, in any way, shape or form, represent the views of the Muhajireen in Somalia. The opinions expressed by Abu Mansur, 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.”
Lastly, al-Shabaab essentially accused Hammami of intentionally attempting to further fracture the group at a time of crisis: “The timing of the releases and the convergence of the entire East African nations upon the Mujahideen were not entirely coincidental occurrences but a calculated attempt to draw attention to the alleged voices of dissent within the ranks of the Mujahideen at a time when they were most likely to be under pressure from their enemies so as to cultivate the destructive seeds of disunity.”
There are several things of note regarding this evolving situation:
The media’s scrutiny of the growing tensions between local and foreign leaders in al-Shabaab clearly ruffled the feathers of the group’s leadership and caused many foreigners to flee Somalia for other Jihadi playgrounds, such as southern Yemen. Al-Shabaab’s statement was intended to clarify the situation in order to retain the support of foreign fighters, but it likely will do the opposite. Thus, Hammami’s fate will be highly scrutinized both by counter-terrorism observers and Jihadists.
Al-Shabaab did not explicitly describe what the fate of Hammami would be. But members found guilty of similar charges have ended up reading their crimes in front of a video camera before their eventual execution (See the video [at minute 3:20] of Ahmed Keyse, an accused CIA spy in al-Shabaab, reading his crimes).
Another interesting point concerns how Hammami–if it is him indeed tweeting–regained access to the Internet after it was revoked in response to his renegade behavior. Equally fascinating, the tweets indicate no attempt at polite clarification or attempted reconciliation, and rather a willful disdain for al-Shabaab leadership. This implies the American has little to lose in his current state. Hammami stated in his biography that he missed Chinese take-out from the U.S., but chose to die as a “martyr” in Somalia. It seems that Hammami may get his wish.