- Somali media have claimed Omar Hammami has been killed
- Hammami is a leader of al Qaeda aligned terrorist group – al Shabab
- He goes by the name of Abu Mansur al-Amriki
- Hammami grew up in Alabama and joined the Somali-based terror group in 2007
PUBLISHED: 15:42 EST, 16 April 2012 | UPDATED: 15:57 EST, 16 April 2012
U.S intelligence officials are trying to confirm reports that Alabama-born Omar Hammami, the leader of an al Qaeda aligned terrorist group, has been beheaded in Somalia.
Reports in Somali media have claimed that the al-Shabab jihadist, known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, or ‘the American’, was beheaded on orders from a rival within the group.
Hammami, who grew up in the city of Daphne, Alabama, has been in Somalia for several years and is a prominent recruiter of Americans and western Europeans to al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous militant group.
A U.S intelligence official told Fox News that the terrorist’s death had not been confirmed but said that, if true, it would be a significant turning point in the group’s recruitment operations.
‘Our folks have been looking for anything on this.We have not been able to confirm this report,’ the official said.
Somali media reports claim al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane is accused of ordering the execution and, significantly, jihadist forums have posted messages of Hammami’s alleged killing.
Last month Hammami released a video in which he admitted to fearing for his life saying that members of al-Shabab may kill him over differences of opinion.
He appeared in the video, which could not be independently verified, saying he disagreed with his comrades on Islam’s Sharia law and strategy.
It is not the first time that Hammami, the most visible of foreign fighters in the ranks of the al-Shabab, is thought to have been killed.
In February last year it was rumoured that he had died in heavy fighting in Mogadishu during the anti-insurgent offensive.
Hammami joined the terror group in October 2007 when he was in his early twenties.
An Al-Jazeera TV report on the militant group described him as a ‘fighter’ and ‘military instructor’ although he kept his face covered during the filming.
There are scant details about what made Hammami go from being a gifted student, president of his Sophomore class who dated the most sought after girl in school, to a key figure in one of the world’s most ruthless Islamist insurgencies.
Born in 1984, he was brought up as a southern Baptist who went to Bible camp and sang ‘Away in a Manger’ at Christmas time.
His mother was a typical Southern Belle with a distinct Alabama accent and taught at an elementary school.
His father came to America from Syria and became an engineer though was said to keep a strict household.
Hammami’s upbringing was immersed in American culture yet still remained culturally Muslim, shoes were left at the door, Koranic inscriptions decorated the walls, pork was forbidden.
As a teenager, his passions fluctuated between Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain, soccer and Nintendo. He had dreams of being a surgeon. Friends in his class said he was a natural leader and compared him to the main character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
His best friend from school told the New York Times: ‘It felt cool just to be with him. He was fun to be around. You knew he was going to be a leader.’
A decade later that hasn’t changed, but he is a leader in a way no one would ever imagine.
According to the New York Times it was a trip to Damascus the summer before his sophomore year would make a lasting impression on him.
He loved the order of things: how his aunts waited on him, how his male cousins shared a ‘cohesiveness of brotherhood’.
In photos of the trip, Hammami had traded in his khakis and polo shirts for a long cotton tunic and a prayer cap. A family video shows him bowing to Mecca in prayer one evening.
When he got back to Alabama, he was said to be torn between his Christianity and Islam.
According to the New York Times, one night before he went to sleep, he turned to God for guidance. He later wrote to his sister: ‘Slowly I started to incline toward Islam, and my heart became tranquil.’
He later tried to convert people in his school to Islam, strolled around campus in a red turban and long robe and would defend Osama bin Laden any time he was brought up in class.
When 9/11 happened, he became the go to guy for local reporters, according to the New York Times.