MOGADISHU, Somalia — An American who became one of Somalia’s most visible Islamic rebels and was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list was killed Thursday by rivals in the extremist group al-Shabab, militants said.
The killing of Omar Hammami, a native of Daphne, Alabama, might discourage other would-be jihadis from the U.S. and elsewhere from traveling to Somalia, terrorism experts said.
Hammami, who was known as Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or “the American,” was killed in an ambush in southern Somalia following months on the run after falling out with al-Shabab’s top leader, militants said.
Reports of Hammami’s death have cropped up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface a short while later. But J.M. Berger, a U.S. terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabab, said he thinks the current death reports are accurate.
The rebels did not immediately present proof of Hammami’s death.
Hammami was highly critical of Shabab’s leadership over the past year and freely shared his views in Internet videos and on Twitter, making him a marked man.
Somalia has been an attractive destination for foreign fighters, and about two dozen Somali-Americans from Minneapolis have joining al-Shabab in the past several years. Hammami’s death will hurt the group’s recruitment efforts, said Abdirizak Bihi, an advocate for the Somali community in Minnesota and the uncle of a young man killed in Somalia in 2008.
Along with Adam Gadahn in Pakistan — a former Osama bin Laden spokesman — the 29-year-old Hammami was one of the two most notorious Americans in jihadi groups. He grew up in Daphne, a community of 20,000 outside Mobile, the son of a Christian mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father.
His YouTube videos that featured him rapping and his presence on Twitter made him one of the most recognizable and studied U.S. foreign fighters. The FBI put Hammami on its Most Wanted Terrorist list in 2012 and offered a $5 million reward in March for information leading to his capture.
U.S. prosecutors had charged Hammami with providing material support to terrorists.