Omar Hammami’s saga turned over another chapter last night. After spilling all the beans earlier in the week about how he was betrayed by al Shabaab and Ahmed Godane in the new hit show ‘Game of Thrones – Somalia Edition’, Omar must have been nervous that al Shabaab would move up their 15 day deadline requiring him to relinquish his weapons and potentially face death (I would guess).
Here’s a quick summary of events since Monday night and I’d like to hear from Somalia experts what they think is going on. Please leave your thoughts down below. After I posted some of my initial assessments of Hammami’s Monday revelations, I also received a quip from Omar.
Oh, don’t be hating brother! At least I’m listening. You say its for the ummah and history. As for the ummah, they don’t seem to be paying much attention as I’ve only really seen Westerners talking about your situation. As for history, well if I don’t write about you, I’m not sure how you will be remembered. It doesn’t look like al Qaeda is writing about you and I’m sure old Adam Gadahn in Pakistan is working hard to make sure he is the American al Qaeda member that is remembered in history – not you.
Based on the reaction of some watching Omar’s YouTube video, I can better understand Omar’s conundrum with the local focus versus global focus problem there in Somalia.
Overall, it seems Omar is in a tough spot. As once being a young American man, I can understand how the thrill of adventure and the excitement of violence can be appealing – I just happened to channel mine in a different direction. The flight of foreign fighters has been described for decades. Ernest Hemingway provides one of the best accounts in the book For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway’s story of an American foreign fighter heading off to the Spanish Civil War seems to have many similar elements to Omar’s true story. Ironically, as was mentioned this week in a Tweet by someone, foreign fighters to the Spanish Civil War were also turned on by their Communist insurgent partners. Quite similar to Omar being turned on by al Shabaab.
Omar has been turned on by both al Shabaab and al Qaeda. He wanted to join their team and he continues to use ideological parallels to try and make the crowd he so desperately seeks (al Qaeda & their supporters) pay attention to him. He continues to chase them despite their rejection of him.
A smart strategy, but ultimately the comments on Twitter and YouTube seem to suggest that Omar is an outsider to Somalia and al Qaeda. The problem for Omar is that he believes the only way forward is to stay in Somalia and fight to the death. While that is a cool movie plot, in reality Omar could recover from his past terrorist intentions and move on to do something positive with his experience. Omar could use his story to prevent other young men from making the same mistake – chasing a fantasy al Qaeda utopia. Al Qaeda’s ideology and objectives, when they try to implement them, quickly collapse under the strain of human weakness. Man’s thirst for power, greed, and jealousy undermine al Qaeda’s fantasy. Omar is witnessing this first hand.
Over the past few months, Omar has been smart to publicly detail his plight in Somalia. His videos, pictures and pronouncements make it more difficult for Shabaab to make him disappear without hurting themselves. And his appeals may have engendered him more protection. This morning, Hammami claims the Raxanweyn clan has committed to protecting him.
Omar has been overtly seeking out the support of the Raxanweyn tribe throughout the past week, appealing to the fact that they provide the majority of troops to Shabaab but have the smallest voice in Shabaab’s leadership. Coincidentally, I believe Mukhtar Robow (whom Hammami apparently advocated for/aligned with resulting in his banishment by Godane) is from Raxanweyn clan.
So what does this mean? It could mean one or more things.
- Hammami is bluffing and using an alleged connection to the Raxanweyn to scare off Shabaab coming to get him at the end of the 15 day period.
- Hammami, through marriage, other connections or his crafty appeal to the Raxanweyn on Twitter, has gained the support of the clan to protect him.
- Hammami has received support from Mukhtar Robow who has committed to backing Hammami against Shabaab. If true, this could be a major development and signal a major internal conflict inside Shabaab in Somalia.
- This account may not be Hammami and is just a propaganda machine uploading old pictures of Hammami and bashing Shabaab. (I don’t think so, but maybe)
I’m sure there are many other scenarios but these are my initial thoughts. The tweet says that, “Scholars are warning against such war.” What ‘scholars’ are they referring to? I hope he’s not referring to me, I work for a living.
Another interesting jab comes via this tweet which says another high level member of Shabaab and associate of Hammami has been detained by Shabaab, presumably for challenging its leadership.
What’s particularly interesting about this claim is that Omar is claiming that the person detained was both Somali and Issaq clan – the clan allegedly of Godane. Who knows if Omar’s claim is true. But Omar is making an intelligent jab at Godane suggesting the Shabaab leader is turning on local Somali fighters and members of his own clan. Smart move Omar!
I’m interested to see what happens in the next few days. If the claim that he has ’15 days to turn over his weapon’ are true, I’m guessing al Shabaab has no later than the 19th of January before they will be failing to live up to their promises. Keep in mind, this Twitter account could end up being a fraud as only someone sitting with Omar can know for sure that any of this accurate. Either way, it’s interesting.