MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — An American who became one of Somalia's most visible Islamic rebels was killed Thursday by the extremist group al-Shabab which is quashing dissenting voices, militants said.
The killing of Omar Hammami, who on the FBI's Most Wanted list, may discourage other would-be jiahdis from traveling to Somali, say terrorism experts.
Hammami, a native of Daphne, Alabama, who was known as Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or "the American," was killed 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 United States terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabab, says he thinks the current death reports are accurate.
The rebels did not immediately present proof of Hammami's death.
Hammami over the last year was highly critical of Shabab's leadership and freely shared his views in Internet videos and on Twitter, making him a marked man who knew his time was likely limited.
Somalia has been an attractive destination for foreign fighters. About two dozen Somali-Americans from Minneapolis have joined 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.
"We always knew the Somalis inside Somalia knew that al-Shabab was bad," Bihi said. "We were concerned about the Somalis in the diaspora ... who never really knew the facts on the ground and were always manipulated and misled. ... So that's why it's a victory. They know now know exactly what al-Shabab is, as much as the Somalis inside."