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Al-Shabaab militants arrested US-born fighter Omar Hammami, known as Abu Mansoor "al-Amriki," Sunday afternoon at Gobweyn village, 15 kilometers north of Kismayo. Al-Shabaab officers held a meeting in Gobweyn and invited the Muharijin group (al-Shabaab's foreign fighters) to attend. Al-Amriki arrived at the meeting with both foreign fighter and Somali al-Shabaab members.
An al-Shabaab fighter present at the scene of the arrest spoke to Somalia Report.
"Al-Amriki and his followers arrived at Gobweyn were instantly surrounded by armed al-Shabaab officers. Al-Amriki's guards were not strong enough to defend him. He surrendered to them and they moved him back to Lower Shabelle region."
is al-Shabaab's best known foreign fighters known for his use of rap music online. He achieved celebrity in mid-2010, when he posted a recruitment video on YouTube depicting his ambush of an Ethiopian and Somali government convoy.
On March 16, al-Amriki posted a video on YouTube in Arabic and English, in which he expressed fears that his life was in danger due to differences with al-Shabaab over "matters of Shariah and matters of strategy."
Despite the preemptive video in which Hammami clearly states his concern about the threat posed by al-Shabaab. An al-Shabaab intelligence officer interviewed by Somalia Report denied that the group intended to cause any harm to al-Amriki. The identical statement was tweeted by the "HSM Press" twitter account which claims to represent al-Shabaab but has never endorsed by al Shabaab or has provided proof of his identity.
The English-educated Somali who owns the account denied the arrest without referencing the source. "All reports of #AlAmriki's arrest are false and intended purely for propaganda purposes. Beware of such inaccurate reports"
Why al-Amriki would obey a summons to an al-Shabaab meeting after publicly expressing a belief that the group had intentions to assassinate him is not yet clear. An alternative account published in Shabelle News has al-Amriki arrested at his home in Marka during a visit to his wife and child. Marka is the operational headquarters of al-Shabaab where a number of senior leaders are seen.
Sheikh Abdirahman Hudeyfa, the newly-appointed al-Shabaab governor of Juba regions, confirmed al-Amriki's arrest to Somalia Report. He stated that al-Amriki was in good health and had only been detained for the purposes of an investigation.
Relations between the Somali leadership of al-Shabaab and the group's foreign fighters have been strained of late. Somali al-Shabaab leaders have already been implicated in the deaths of at least two top al-Qaeda lieutenants. Head al-Shabaab commander Ahmed Ali Godane is known to have arranged the killing of Nairobi embassy bomber Fazul Mohammed, and the January 22 death of Bilal al-Barjawi in a US drone strike prompted the nationalist and transnationalist factions of al-Shabaab to each suspect each other over providing information to the Americans. There have numerous confusing and difficult to confirm stories about rifts between al Shabaab leaders Godane, Robow and Aweys.
There are number of foreign fighters in al-Shabaab's ranks, most are Somalis from Western countries followed by Yemenis with a few Kenyans and other nationalities. Hammami is unusual due to his high profile and use of media. Something that is a benefit to al-Shabaab in attracting English-speaking volunteers but a negative in bringing attention from US anti-terrorism efforts to what is supposed to be a Somali driven insurgency to oust foreigners.
Hammami is a US citizen born in Daphne, a suburb of Mobile Alabama. He became a Salafi in college and after college moved to Toronto where he married a Somali/Canadian woman. After a short stint in Egypt, Hammami and his wife moved to Somalia in November 2006 a month before the invasion of the Ethiopian army into Somalia.
"Amriki" or "The American" first appeared in al Jazeera interview in October 2007 and three months he began publishing videos containing lectures or recruitment propaganda. He has been wanted by the FBI since 2007 and may be on a JPEL Joint Prioritized Effects List for kill or capture like fellow Americans Anwar al-Awlaki and Inspire publisher Samir Khan were. Queens-native Khan and Arizonan Awlaki were killed on September 30, 2011 by a CIA airstrike.
Riverside, California native, Adam Gadahn is the only other American openly affiliated with al-Qaeda and believed to be in Pakistan working with Ayman al Zawahiri. He is also wanted on terrorism-related charges with a one million dollar bounty.