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American jihadi in Somalia writes an autobiography

Omar Hammami, an American jihadist from Alabama, wrote a 127-page book about his experience fighting on the front lines with Somalia's Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Shabab.

By Correspondent / May 21, 2012

Members of Somalia's Al Shabab militant group patrol on foot on the outskirts of Mogadishu on March 5.

AP/File

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Nairobi, Kenya

Insights into the minds of Westerners who have traveled to faraway lands to join the armies of radical Islam are usually confined to esoteric security websites and jihadist blogs rarely written in English.

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But an eye-opening, eyebrow-raising, 127-page document just uploaded to the internet gives a unique glimpse into the motivations of the increasing numbers of young men now fighting in the ranks of Somalia’s Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Shabab

"The Story of An American Jihadi: Part One" is the autobiography of Abu Mansur al-Amriki, a 28-year-old Al Shabab commander who was, in an earlier life, a popular school soccer player, star student, and baptized Christian from Daphne, Ala., called Omar Hammami. In the book, Mr. Hammami talks of his “privileged” upbringing, his turn to Islam, his journey to Somalia, and his time training with some of America’s most wanted Islamist terrorists. 

He also writes of how he misses “Chinese food, hot wings, Nestle ice cream, and gourmet coffee,” but that his motivation to fight for Islam means he knows that he will be “a fugitive for the rest of my life.”

Hip hop jihadi

Hammami has become one of the few public faces of Al Shabab. He has appeared on YouTube videos explaining Al Shabab's aims, has been featured on an al-Jazeera documentary, and even recorded a rap song that was released on the internet. He is wanted by the FBI, and has been indicted in the Southern District of Alabama on terrorism violations, including for leaving the US to join Al Shabab. 

Hammami’s father is a respected civil engineer who came to Alabama as a teenager from Syria, and his mother is a “typical Southern protestant girl” descended from Irish immigrants. 

“I think having the IRA on one side of my family tree and Al Qaeda on the other might have given me a bit of a bad temperament,” he writes.

His father, a Muslim, was not religious. His mother would take Hammami and his sister, with whom he was very close, to church each Sunday, and he was baptized at the Perdido Baptist Church, where he says he was “the best student in Bible school.” As a young teenager, he would visit his maternal grandfather and “spend time deer hunting like good old boys.”

“My accuracy with the shot gun those days was not as good as my accuracy with the AK though,” he writes. “Let’s just say I missed my good share of deer.”

He was, he says, “the most popular guy in school,” a trusted member of the soccer team, and cruising at the top of his class with among the best grades. But his interests changed as he grew older – especially after a trip to Syria to visit his father’s family. He began to think of himself as a Muslim and turned away from what he increasingly saw as unIslamic activities: “the drugs, the girls, the friends, the TV."

“It would be around my tenth grade year that it started becoming clear that Omar is a Muslim and Muslims can’t do drugs or have girlfriends,” he writes, referring to himself in the third person. “It was an upward battle.” 

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