Profile: Omar Hammami
Posted: February 9, 2010
Updated: March 27, 2012
Omar Hammami, a 27-year-old American citizen from Alabama, has become a primary recruiter for Al Shabaab, the Somali-based terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda. The group disseminates online propaganda videos featuring Hammami to recruit young Somali-American men to join its insurgency against Somalia's transitional governments and its Ethiopian supporters.
Hammami is identified in Al Shabaab statements and recordings as Abu Mansour al Amriki, Arabic for "Abu Mansour the American." On August 5, 2010, federal authorities unsealed an indictment charging him with providing material support to terrorists. After arriving in Somalia in late 2006, Hammami rose through the ranks of Al Shabaab due to his fluency in Arabic and his proficiency working with computers.
More recently, Hammami may have come into conflict with other members of Al Shabaab. On March 16, 2012, a short video was posted to YouTube in which Hammami says, "my life may be endangered by [Al Shabaab] due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the Shariah and matters of strategy." Al Shabaab responded via its Twitter account expressing surprise at Hammami's concerns and denying that he has anything to fear.
An audio lecture by Hammami posted online on May 25, 2012, may provide insights into his apparent rift with Al Shabaab. In the 45-minute lecture, originally posted online in January but quickly removed, he criticizes jihadist organizations with a local focus, likening them to a "cancerous tumor." He also calls for all Muslims to unite in a "jihad of the entire Ummah [Muslim nation]" under the banner of restored Caliphate.
Hammami had become a public face and voice of Al Shabaab as part of the terrorist organization's effort to recruit English-speakers. In his numerous written, video and audio statements, Hammami has issued appeals to Americans and other English-speakers "to come and live the life of a mujahid [holy warrior]." Since the fall of 2007, approximately 25 Somali-American men between the ages of 17 and 27 have traveled to Somalia to join Al Shabaab, as have other recruits from Britain, Australia and Canada.
In May 2011, Hammami spoke alongside other Al Shabaab leaders at a public rally south of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, vowing to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden. "We are sending a message to [Barack] Obama and [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton that we will avenge the death of our leader Sheikh Osama bin Laden very soon," he said. "Osama is dead but the holy war is not dead. Mujahedeen fighters all over the world are fully prepared to revenge the death of our leader."
His threats against the U.S. and other Western interests indicate that Al Shabaab may have ambitions outside Somalia's borders. Hammami's statements also underscore Al Shabaab's goals to establish an Islamic state in Somalia by ridding the country of outside influences.