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American Shabaab Commander Alive, Says US intel

Bill Roggio
15th March 2011 - The Long War Journal

An American citizen who serves as a senior Shabaab military commander and propagandist is thought to be still alive, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal, disputing a report from last week by a Somali official claiming that Hammami had been killed.

"Our assessment is Hammami is not dead, at least we see no evidence of it," a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal, referring to Omar Hammami, the American from Alabama who is better known as Abu Mansour al Amriki.

Hamammi was reported to have been killed sometime during the last month in heavy fighting in Mogadishu and the surrounding areas, Somalia's defense minister told The Associated Press on March 8. But the defense minister did not present any evidence of Hammami's death. Also, Shabaab did not announce Hammami's death.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal on March 8, the date of the initial report, would not confirm Hammami's death.

Background on Omar Hammami

Hammami is a US citizen who converted to Islam and then traveled to Somalia in 2006. Once in Somalia, he quickly rose through the ranks, and now serves as a military commander. He is one of the many foreign commanders who hold senior leadership positions in Shabaab, which is al Qaeda's affiliate in East Africa. Hammami is one of 14 people indicted by the US Justice Department in August 2010 for providing material support to Shabaab.

Hammami also began appearing in Shabaab propaganda tapes. In one tape, released in May 2010, Hammami stressed that Shabaab's war is not confined to Somalia but is global in nature. "From Somalia and Shiishaan (Chechnya), from Iraq and Afghanistan, gonna meet up in the Holy Lands, establishing Allah's Law on the land," Hammami says in a chorus repeated throughout the song. In the tape, Hammami and others identify their enemy as the "salib," or crusaders.

In February, the Somali government, backed by Ugandan and Burundian forces in the African Union, as well as Ethiopia, launched an offensive against Shabaab. Somalia's President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, claimed on March 7 that Shabaab "is on the verge of collapse" after the terror group was driven out of several strongholds in the capital of Mogadishu as well as in the Gedo region on the Kenyan border.

The government claimed that Shabaab has lost more than 500 fighters during the offensive. But the African Union has suppressed information about heavy casualties to its own forces. On Mar. 4, it was reported that 53 African Union troops had been killed during the fighting. No estimates on the number of Somali troops killed have been released.

Tags

al-shabaab, somalia