Omar Hammami

Alias/es: Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki; “al-qa’id al-maydani” (field commander)

Status: Deceased (2013)

Organisation/s: Al-Shabaab

Nationality/ies: American

Travel History: Syria; Egypt (2005); Somalia (2006)

Skills/Education/Occupation: Computer sciences

Omar Hammami was a prominent American Al-Shabaab member born and raised in Daphne Alabama. Born of a Southern Baptist Alabaman mother (Debra Hadley) and Muslim immigrant father (Shafik Hammami), Hammami struggled with his religious identity throughout high school. Hammami’s trips to Damascus to visit his relatives from his father’s side are said to have made made an impact on him to consider his devotion to Islam more seriously. This would be a major theme in the years leading to him joining Al-Shabaab.

After dropping out of college in 2002, Hammami moved to Canada with his recently converted friend from Daphne High School, Bernie Culveyhouse, where they became part of a small Muslim community. In 2005, Hammami married Culveyhouse’s Somali sister-in-law, Sadiyo Mohamed Abdille before the two families decided to move to Alexandra, Egypt with the hope of living in a traditional Muslim society and studying Islam at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. After their applications were rejected, Culveyhouse returned to the United States with his family, leaving Hammami incessantly restless with his religious devotion and struggling to support his family.

In 2006 Hammami joined an online chatroom called the Islamic Network where he met Daniel Maldonado and became increasingly radicalised into considering joining the Islamist movement in Somalia. This came against the backdrop of the Islamic Courts facing an impending invasion from neighboring Ethiopia after it had established some semblance of order under Sharia law for the first time in Somalia since 1991. In light of this, Hammami decided to travel to Somalia.

Hammami made his debut on Al-Jazeera in October 2007 as Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki and would appear in three more official Al-Shabaab videos between 2009 and 2011. One of Hammami’s most notable appearances was his speech at a conference organised by Al-Shabaab called “We Are All Usama” following the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Hammami was also said to be involved in Al-Shabaab’s military strategy, international recruitment (particularly of Western audiences) and finances.

Hammami began revealing ongoing internal factional disputes within Al-Shabaab in 2012. In a one minute clip posted on YouTube, Hammami testified to the leadership’s contentions over Islamic ideology and strategy. In a later video, Hammami spoke of contending factions between global jihadists and Somali Islamist nationalists. Hassan Dahir Aweys followed suit in a speech at a mosque in Merca, likening Ahmed Abdi Godane’s dictatorial leadership style to Mohamed Siad Barre, the deposed former president of Somalia.

Fearing for his life, Hammami went on the run and continued tweeting about poor treatment of Al-Shabaab members and several attempts on his life by pro-Godane Al-Shabaab militants. Hammami remained on the move with two Al-Qaeda operatives, Khattab al-Masri and Osama al-Britaini, as they tried to reach Kenya en route to Libya through South Sudan. During the period, Hammami continued to launch criticisms against Godane, testifying to his proclivity to use any and all means to retain power. True to this, Godane’s Amniyat units eventually tracked Hammami and his accomplices in Bardhere in September 2013, killing him and al-Britaini instantly and capturing al-Masri.