Thursday, September 12, 2013
A US Islamist fighting in Somalia was killed Thursday in a shootout
with Al-Qaeda linked Shebab militants, former comrades he had fallen out
with, witnesses said.
Alabama-born Omar Hammami -- better known
as Al-Amriki or "the American" -- was one of the most prominent
foreigners fighting in Somalia, and the US State Department had offered a
$5 million (3.8 million euro) bounty for his capture.
"There was a
gun battle between Amriki and his men and other fighters, the reports
are that Amriki is among those killed," said Moalim Ali, a resident in
Bardhere, a small settlement in southern Somalia.
Two other extremists were also killed in the battle, including one other foreigner.
were conflicting reports of the latter's identity, with some reporting
he was Egyptian, others suggesting he may have been British or
"Amriki and two other fighters, one of them foreigner, have been killed near Bardhere," said Mohamed Wardhere, another resident.
There was no immediate response from the Shebab.
29, moved to Somalia in 2006 and began to work for Shebab recruiting
young trainees through his English-language rap songs and videos.
videos showed him enthusiastically promoting the Shebab's battle to
overthrow the internationally backed government, but he later fell out
with top Shebab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, for whom the US has offered $7
Hammami, who referred to himself as the "former poster
boy" of the group, accused Godane of betraying the former presumed chief
of Al-Qaeda in east Africa, Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, leading to his
killing in 2011 in Somalia.
Fazul is thought to have planned the
1998 truck bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam,
and had a $5 million bounty on his head.
In turn, the Shebab accused Amriki of "spreading discord and disunity" and a "narcissistic pursuit of fame".
had previously warned of assassination attempts against him, and posted
forlorn photographs on his Twitter account posing with automatic
rifles, his lank hair held back by a checked headscarf.
Somalia's Shebab have lost a string of key towns to a 17,700-strong African Union force, fighting alongside government troops.
death of Hammami makes him the latest extremist to be killed by
infighting within the group, and will bolster Godane's control.
Aynte, head of the Somali think-tank the Heritage Institute for Policy
Studies, said that if confirmed, Hammami's death would mean the
"anti-Godane alliance is almost neutralised".
In June, Godane's
men killed two co-founders of the group, one with one with a $5 million
US bounty, Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead, better known by his nickname
Al-Afghani -- "the Afghan".
Veteran Islamist leader Hassan Dahir
Aweys, allied to the Shebab since 2010, also fled Godane's purge after
criticising his rule, and has since been placed under arrest in the
Inside the Shebab, some are more attracted by a
nationalist agenda to oust foreign forces from Somalia, while others --
including Godane -- are seen as having more global jihadi ambitions.
But despite its divisions, analysts say it remains a dangerous and powerful force.
Monitoring Group reports in July estimated the Shebab are still some
5,000 strong, and remain the "principal threat to peace and security to