|American jihadi struggles inside al-Shabab|
|After arriving in Somalia in 2006, Abu Mansoor al-Amriki joined the al-Shabab militia, fighting U.S.-backed African Union forces. And in Marka, Somalia he ruled. Omar Salim, a resident said, "Everybody feared him." |
For the past three years, he lived in this bucolic oceanside town with three wives and five children in a small residence on a narrow pathway. Known in Arabic as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, he had come a long way from his home in Alabama.
Amriki, whose real name is Omar Shafik Hammami, has been the militia's most visible face, using social media Web sites to spread terrorist propaganda. In some videos, he raps, praising jihad and extremist Islam. He was indicted in the United States on charges of terrorist activities, and a federal warrant was issued for his arrest in 2007.
But in recent months, there have been shifts in his rhetoric, from defiance to fear to a quest for survival and relevance. In one video, he portrayed himself as a victim facing a death sentence ordered by his own comrades. He has even penned the first part of an online memoir in which he describes himself as "a middle-class white guy" who can "only pray that Allah grants me a righteous ending."
Western and Somali security experts say Amriki's journey is a reflection of the divisions and struggle for identity within the militia itself as it suffers major loses on the battlefield. A visit with African Union forces to Marka, in an area the militia once controlled, provided an on-the-ground look into Amriki's life as a jihadi, as well as the militia's current state.
|Reports of AL man in terrorist group executed|
|There are unconfirmed reports of the possible execution of an Alabama man who joined a Somali terrorist group several years ago.|
American Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki joined the Jihadist group Al-Shabaab in 1999, eventually becoming one of the group's top commanders.
He is rumored to have been executed by other commanders over a dispute about the terrorist group's future.
The reports have been unconfirmed by NBC News and by Al-Shabaab, which has its own press office.
|U.S. Extremist in Somalia Fears for Life from Fellow Fighters|
|[An Nahar] A U.S.-born Islamist fighter viewed as a key foreign leader within Somalia's al-Qaeda allied Shebab militia has said he fears his life is now in danger from fellows.|
Omar Hamami -- better known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki -- gave the warning in an undated video posted on several Somali websites and YouTube Saturday.
"To whomever it may reach from the s, from Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shebab Al-Mujahedeen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the Sharia (Islamic law) and matters of the strategy," he said, speaking in English.
He provided no further details about the threats or differences with other Shebab commanders, who have been battling to topple the weak Western-backed government, which is propped up by over 10,000 troops.
The video adds weight to reports of growing divisions within the Shehab, who face pressure on three fronts by regional forces and pro-government forces.
Amriki had previously been seen as a key leader for in the Shebab, alongside top Somali commanders Muktar Robow and Sheikh Hasan Dahir Aweys.
Some suggest Somali Shebab fighters view the foreign as a liability -- even as potential spies -- while missile strikes have targeted the foreign s.
the Shebab dismissed the Amriki's concerns in messages posted Saturday on Twitter.
"We assure our brothers that al-Amriki is not endangered by the mujahedeen, and our brother still enjoys all the privileges of brotherhood," the Shebab said.
Alabama-born Amriki, who has reportedly been based in anarchic Somalia since late 2006 and is wanted by the United States on terrorism charges, has issued previous videos calling for foreign recruits, including singing rap songs praising jihad.
's security think tank, the Royal United Services Institution, estimates the total number of within the Shebab to be around 200.
AU military commanders say they have reports some are fleeing Somalia for Yemen.
The hardline Shehab last month lost control of their strategic base of Baidoa to Ethiopian troops and pro-government Somali forces, the second major loss for the rebels in six months after the majority pulled out of the capital Mogadishu.
experts warn the Shebab are far from defeated and remain a major threat, especially now they have switched to guerrilla tactics in many areas after leaving fixed fighting positions.
|Al Qaeda exporting jihad with a hip-hop vibe|
|"A to da Qizzy iz in da house . . ."|
The latest video from Somalia's al Qaeda-backed Al-Shabaab wing is as slickly produced as a reality TV show but with a startling message -- complete with a hip-hop jihad vibe.
Experts think Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, dubbed "The American" by al Qaeda, speaks in the Somali video. "Mortar by mortar, shell by shell, only going to stop when I send them to hell," the unidentified voice raps on the video, which runs at least 18 minutes.
The video also shows a man reported to be Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, dubbed "The American" by al Qaeda. He apparently is now in Somalia training and counseling Somalis from North America and Europe. He speaks in American English. "Away from your family, away from our friends, away from ice, candy bars, all those things is because we're waiting to meet the enemy," says the man believed to be al-Amriki.
Intelligence experts say the video was probably made in recent weeks and comes on the heels of an audio message in March purportedly from Osama bin Laden. In that recording, the al Qaeda leader calls on his "Muslim brothers in Mujahid Somalia" to overthrow President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed for cooperating with the West.
"We're seeing perhaps their most sophisticated attempt so far to really reach an audience of potential recruits in America, and that's one of the things that made that video very significant," said Ben Venzke of the IntelCenter, a Washington-based research group that tracks al Qaeda's development and messages. "They're casting it in a way that's going to speak to the youth of today," Venzke said. "Most of the time, what we're seeing in their videos directly parallels what the groups are doing operationally, what they are targeting, where they're recruiting."
Sheik Ahmed Matan knows that firsthand. A respected member of Britain's Somali community, Matan said he knows of hundreds of young Somali men who have returned to Somalia for terrorist training. "A lot of young people from here, from America, from Canada, from everywhere from Europe -- they went there," he said.
He added that these men are capable of being sent back home to conduct terrorist operations, even suicide bombings. "It can be, they can train anytime and send them here, anytime," Matan said.
Matan said he often challenges "recruiters" at mosques and elsewhere in Britain, demanding that they stop brainwashing younger Somalis about Islam. He said the government should play a greater role in monitoring what is said and done at these mosques -- but, he concedes, doing so has proved highly controversial in Britain and throughout Europe.
There is some evidence that al Qaeda is successfully preying on some of those with Western backgrounds. One of them was a business student from London who suddenly left for Somalia. He surfaced about 18 months ago on a martyrdom video, just before blowing himself up in southern Somalia, killing at least 20 people, officials say.
U.S. Defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said months ago that one of their worst nightmares would be al Qaeda operating freely in Somalia. Now that nightmare continues, with Somalis in North America and Europe admitting that al Qaeda's reach is spreading.
Venzke said Al-Shabaab has put out more videos than ever before in the past year. "If that's what they're doing publicly, we can only assume how their operations have developed," he said.