Monday, November 19, 2012
By Patrick Boehler
A 28-year old Alabama-born college dropout has been rapping his way through warn-torn Somalia as a voice for religious extremism for half a decade. Last week, the FBI has had enough of his mediocre rhymes inciting violence and put him on their list of most wanted terrorists.
Omar Shafik Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki (‘The American’), grew up in Daphne, Ala., the son of a Syrian father and a Southern Baptist mother. Since 2006, he has been living with the al-Shabaab militia, one of a about forty Americans who have taken up with the al-Qaeda affiliated extremist group.
(MORE: Hate Us on Facebook! Somali Militants’ Bizarre Social Media Campaign)
Few others, however, are known for their rhyming skills. “Gonna knock America down to her knees,” Hammami raps in a 2010 song. “Better call Zanawi, Bush and Condoleez / Marines, army, navy and the police.” His first song to appear in 2009, ‘Blow by Blow’, is a series of adaptions of the initial chorus like “Bomb by bomb, blast by blast, only gonna bring back the glorious past.”
Last year, two more songs ‘Send me a cruise’ and ‘Make Jihad with me’ appeared online. “Just send me a cruise with a couple of tons and a predator drone with a Paradise bomb,” he raps. Last September, another al-Qaeda embedded American, 25-year-old Samir Khan, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. The New York native had been an editor with al-Qaeda’s English-language magazine Inspire.
After dropping out of school Hammami moved to Canada, where he married a Somali refugee. In 2006, travelling via Cairo and Dubai, he arrived in the Somali capital Mogadishu, which was then under the control of Islamic extremists. He was embraced as a fighter with the regime’s militia offshoot Al Shabaab, according to his autobiography.
His career choice had not gone unnoticed in the U.S. A year after his journey to Mogadishu, he was indicted in absentia on terrorism charges and an arrest warrant was issued in his home state Alabama. Meanwhile, Hammami was advancing up the ranks. Days after the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, he participated at a public rally eulogising the Al Qaeda leader killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan.
(MORE: Dispatch from Mogadishu: Looking for Militants in Somalia’s War-Torn Capital)
While it is unclear why the FBI made him the 31st name on their most wanted terrorists list at this moment, reports indicate thatHammami’s terrorist career has hit a rough patch.
In March, Somali Defence Minister Abdihakim Mohamud Haji Fidi suggested that Hammami might have been killed in fights with the secular government’s forces. In April, he was wrongly reported beheaded by the militia’s leaders. In May, he appeared in a YouTube video saying that his life was in danger and warning of infighting within the militia. In a tweet, the militant group denied that.
On May 16, Hammami publishedAmerican Jihadist, a 127-page autobiography recounting his childhood in suburban Alabama, his journey to join the Islamic fundamentalists. In it, he writes that he longed for a “three day visit to see my mom, dad, and sister.”
“I’d like to make a round of the restaurants and get some Chinese food, some hot wings, some Nestle ice cream, some gourmet coffee, and a slew of other foods and beverages.”