The Shabaab vs. Omar Hammami “teen movie” like social media fight took another turn with Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, an e-jihadi holding a grudge against Hammami, producing a slick looking 17 page refutation of Omar Hammami’s public claims of deceit and dissension in Shabaab’s ranks.
The document entitled “Turning Away From The Truth Won’t Make It Disappear: Demystifying the Abu Mansur Saga” paints Hammami in a negative light and seems to be an overt attempt by Shabaab to do damage control after Omar’s allegations. I’ll post a few notes of interest. Abu Hamza is a good writer despite needing a lesson on writing shorter titles.
Omar published his recent revelations in Arabic but Shabaab refutes Omar in English – I assumed last month that Omar wrote his revelations about Godane’s betrayal in Arabic to try and draw sympathy and support from the Arab world after his previous English language autobiography fell flat. However, Shabaab and their spokesman Abu Hamza have refuted Omar’s allegations in English. Why? While the Arab world probably doesn’t care much about Omar, but Hamza and Shabaab get many of their foreign fighters from the West and fewer from the Gulf compared to other conflicts. Omar’s story likely hurts support from the Somali Diaspora and Shabaab needs to patch that up that pipeline by communicating their version of the story to the West.
Shabaab claims Omar has an ego problem – If Shabaab knew this, why did they only inflate his ego further by putting Omar on a public pedestal filming and broadcasting him with Shabaab’s top leaders? Shabaab did this because they wanted to flaunt the American in their ranks and jab at the West. And it backfired on them! Shabaab empowered Hammami and they brought this problem onto themselves by promoting Hammami publicly and killing off opposition in their ranks. If there is anything I believe from Omar’s account, it’s that Shabaab’s factions have killed off foreign fighters and even al Qaeda fighters at times if these individuals were a challenge to different clan leaders inside Shabaab.
Shabaab REALLY wants to patch up the divisions between local Somali fighters and foreign fighters – Omar’s claims of local vs. foreign conflicts must really hurt as Shabaab the group is going to great lengths to note that foreign fighters (Muhajirs) and local Somali Shabaab members (Ansaris). Omar’s accusations must be making waves in the foreign fighter recruitment pipeline and I wonder what the effect is in the Somali Diapora. Here’s a clip:
Uhhh, Abu Hamza doesn’t speak for Shabaab, sort of – The author of the document says:
‘Needless to say, the views expressed here are my personal views, for which I remain liable, and do not represent those of HSM,”
Does Hamza plan on running for Congress some day? What is he a government contractor speaking at an academic conference? Why would Hamza try to cover himself like this? This likely means a couple of things. One, Shabaab doesn’t want to be seen responding to Omar because in doing so, they would be confirming that Omar hurt Shabaab. Two, the author, like Hammami during his first auto-biography, is afraid he might say something wrong in this document and later be punished. So Hamza has decided to hedge a bit.
Shabaab claims Hammami staged his video far in advance - The Shabaab response claims that Hammami staged his videos, even filmed them, a year or more in advance of their broadcast on the Internet. However, the logic behind the refutation seems to be a stretch. Essentially “a guy said he thinks he knows when the video was filmed…” The author doesn’t actually know when the video was filmed. Shabaab claims that Hammami planned the broadcast of his videos way in advance, but I believe this is a bit of projection by Shabaab. Essentially, because Shabaab plans their videos way in advance, they must think Hammami does as well.
Two bad options: Who should we believe? Shabaab or Hammami? - In typical e-jihadi dribble similar to American high school girls, the Shabaab document goes on for a good while of, “and then he sent an email to Omar, and Omar sent a text message to Hamza, who called Ahmed, and he said “Oh no you didn’t” and Omar said “oh yes I did.” The entire discussion on pages 11 & 12 are funny reading and mostly worthless banter.
The only really interesting part is that Shabaab claims Omar was on the Islamic Awakening Forum, incognito, trying to confirm his own death last summer. I assume Omar did this because he was trying to use his faked death as cover to escape Shabaab and Somalia. I guess Omar has seen one too many movies and also forgot he is an American guy running around Somalia – fairly easy to spot I would imagine. Here’s a clip from the account:
Why should we believe this very eloquent English speaker writing a second-hand account on an Internet site rather than Omar himself who is writing in the first person from his own experiences? While I think there is some truth and some falsehoods on behalf of both parties, I’m inclined to go with the primary source (Omar) over the secondary source (Hamza) until further evidence emerges. Plus, the propaganda style of Hamza in the first two pages and his dependence on hearsay weakens his argument for me.
Shabaab claims Omar wouldn’t return to the battlefield in Marka - As Omar said, he believed that foreign fighters were being deliberately killed off so why obey the orders? Shabaab claims that Rage tried to meet with Omar to work things out, but Omar didn’t show up and then sent a message pleading for his life.
“The exhaustive attempts of the Umarā were often met with disdain, eventually resulting in Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, ‘Ali Dheere’, setting up an appointment to meet Abu Mansur in order to personally discuss the problem with him.”
Shabaab claims they were going to meet with Hammami…to work things out? Hammami, who believed foreign fighters were being killed off, gets called to meet with one of the bosses and then leaves town. We’ve all seen mafia movies (Godfather, Goodfellas, etc.) and we know what happens when the boss comes to see you after you’ve screwed up. Hammami thought Shabaab leaders were killing off foreign fighters, how could he possibly work this out with Rage? I see why Omar took off.
Hammami’s post denunciation activities - Pages 14 and on describe what Omar did after posting the first video pleading for his life. I feel this portion of the document is likely quite accurate and paints a picture of a defiant Omar who made himself readily seen in public. Shabaab claims this a sign of his arrogance, which could be true, but I also see it as Omar keeping himself alive as the more he is seen in public the more difficult it is for Shabaab to kill him and not feel repurcussions.
Hamza and Shabaab label Omar a strategy novice - On this point, I agree with Hamza. Omar’s discussions of strategy falls flat when presented with the reality of al Qaeda’s situation. Omar’s pushing of Abu Musab al Suri’s strategy fails to note the apparent weaknesses of this strategy in other contexts, something Shabaab seems to recognize.
Hammami didn’t write his own rap? WHAT? MILLI VANILLI? - Wow, The most aggressive charge by Shabaab against Omar Hammami is that his YouTube rap which made him famous back in America was not actually written by Omar. Instead, the rap was written by another American foreign fighter to Shabaab. We could be in the middle of an al Qaeda-Milli Vanilli scandal.
“Worth noting here also is that the Jihadi rap Nasheeds, ‘send me a cruise’ and ‘make Jihad with me’, that are often erroneously attributed to Abu Mansur are the work of another Muhajir, – another American Mujahid – but, of course, Abu Mansur would never say otherwise since the Nasheeds ‘perfect’ and complement his projected self-image.”
Omar has been quiet on Twitter the past few days. Did Hamza’s message really get to him? Was Hamza’s message really only a justification and cover for Shabaab to kill Omar? Only time will tell in this “Teen Movie” social media melodrama. Stay tuned.