Sadness at Home After Death in Somalia of US-Born Terrorist
Islamist militant Omar Hammami, 27, speaks during a news conference
held by the militant group al-Shabab at a farm in southern Mogadishu's
Afgoye district in Somalia. (May 11, 2011 file photo)
Friday, September 13, 2013
News that U.S.-born terrorist Omar Hammami died in Somalia was met with
sadness and relief by people who knew him in the Mobile, Alabama, suburb
of Daphne. Many people there were shocked that a local boy had taken
up with an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group, and Hammami's activity with
al-Shabab created some friction with Muslims in his hometown. But, some
remember him as a good guy.
People in southern Alabama received the reports that al-Shabab gunmen
killed Omar Hammami in Somalia with some caution, because there had been
previous false reports. But most people following the news from
far-away East Africa knew he was in great danger after breaking away
from the Somali militant group and criticizing its leader.
His father, Shafik Hammami, spoke to VOA shortly after learning his son was dead.
"I was shocked and of course did not believe it, because we’ve been
through this before many times. And I was hoping and praying this would
be like the news in the past and would not be true," he said.
The elder Hammami immigrated to the United States from Syria in 1972.
His son, Omar, was born in Alabama in 1984. Shafik Hammami says his son
became a devout Muslim, but he does not know how he became a radical.
"My own judgment is that he had good intentions to fulfill his Islamic
principles, but he was deceived by the al-Shabab and their murderous
ways. He rebelled against them because he did not approve of their
ways, that is, not in the Islamic tradition and Islamic teachings," he
Mike Faulk went to high school with Omar Hammami and was in an
international studies class that often produced heated debates. In one
incident, Hammami attacked him and tried to choke him. The honor student
was suspended for a few days, but Faulk says when Hammami returned, all
"He came back to class and apologized. We got along. We had very big
disagreements, but he was intelligent and he could have done good things
with his life," said Faulk.
Faulk now works as a reporter for the Yakima Herald newspaper in
Washington state. He says the Alabama community on the east side of
Mobile Bay where he and Omar grew up was typically American, steeped in
the music and movies that were popular in the rest of the country. From
time to time, this influence would show in cultural references that
Hammami made in his promotional messages on behalf of al-Shabab.
Faulk says it is sad that his classmate turned his back on the good life he could have had.
"He chose to be - he became, for lack of a better term - one of the bad
guys, but for some time in his life he was one of the good guys," he
said. "It is tragic that he made these choices so that he will never be
remembered for the person he was before that: the kid who had
sleepovers, played soccer, ate popcorn and watched, in quotes, 'all the
movies everyone in our town grew up watching.'"
Because of his activities with al-Shabab, the U.S. government had
charged Omar Hammami with providing material support to a terrorist
organization and offered up to $5 million for information leading to his