Omar Hammami is the most famous foreign jihadi in Somalia, an Alabama-born 26-year old who disappeared from his home in 2006 and was reborn in Somalia as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki.
A brief mention in the New York Times today suggested that al-Amriki had been wounded. GlobalPost has so far been unable to independently verify the report but, later in the day, The Associated Press quoted Somalia’s defence minister saying “intelligence reports” suggested al-Amriki has been killed during the recent fierce fighting between government forces, backed by African Union troops, and al-Shabaab.
The definitive profile of Hammami/al-Amriki was published in the New York Times Magazine in January last year 10-months after he became the face of the international jihad in Somalia by starring, unmasked, in a recruitment video called ‘Ambush at Bardale’.
The video featured the handsome bearded young man with long hear, clutching an assault rifle and commanding the ambush. In an apparent bid to appeal to young Westerners the video included al-Amriki’s unsophisticated rapping:
“Bomb by bomb, blast by blast, only gonna bring back the glorious past. Mortar by mortar, shell by shell, only gonna stop when I send them to hell.
“Word by word, Bush said it true, you’re with them or you’re with the Muslim group. Muslim pride, Islam is on the rise, raise Allah’s word against oppression you find.
“The American dream has fallen. Bush has gone down like Stalin. The economy’s crawlin’, widows are bawlin’, your dead, you be haulin’. While our takbirs keep calling.” (As transcribed by the anti-terrorism research organisation the NEFA Foundation)
His rhyme and rhythm may not win him a record deal but al-Amrikia’s hip-hop credentials are, according to analysts, outstripped by his military ones, as a commander and strategist, and an influential member of al-Shabaab pushing the organisation to play a more regional and global role rather than simply a national one.
His demise would be a serious blow to al-Shabaab and to its efforts to attract foreign fighters from the US and elsewhere.