If you are a young American male considering joining a foreign terrorist organization in general and al-Shabaab in Somalia in particular, I highly recommend you to read Omar Hammami’s autobiography (available on the Internet, but not yet on Kindle). Unfortunately for Hammami, he arrived in Somalia before the release of al Qaeda’s (Mis) Adventures in Horn of Africa. Had he waited until after the summer of 2007, Hammami could have read al Qaeda’s primary source documents from 1992-1994 and diverted his plan. Al Qaeda’s internal documents ’92-’94 read just like Hammami’s bio from 2012 – tales of suffering, betrayal and defeat. (For some highlights from the 90’s AQ documents, see this post) The irony is that Bin Laden learned from these Somalia pitfalls of the 90’s and I’m certain they influenced his decision to block a Shabaab-AQ merger as debated in this new Abottabad document released this month. (See SOCOM-2012-0000006-HT)
In follow up to yesterday’s post on Fazul-Hammami connections, I present 6 reasons for why joining al-Shabaab or any extremist group in Somalia appears to be a particularly bad idea; above the obvious point that joining a terrorist group in general is never a good idea. So here it goes:
#1 – Betrayal
This reason more than any other should be the biggest deterrent for those considering joining al-Shabaab. If malaria, dehydration, starvation, rival clans or foreign armies don’t kill you, other members of Shabaab will. I hypothesized a couple months back about 3 or 4 scenarios describing why Hammami was in a particularly precarious place in Somalia. The crux of my theory: certain elements inside Shabaab were/are killing off other members of Shabaab and al Qaeda. Well, his bio doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Starting on page 79, Hammami describes how Shabaab fighters routinely betray each other:
It was during this short stay that we met up with Abu Cabdallaah as-Sudaani (Ciise Cusman Ciise), and a few other Muhaajirs. Cabdul Qaadir Komandos also joined our group at this stage. Abu Cabdallaah had almost died of Malaria and he wouldn’t take on a leadership position for quite a while. He did, however, come with news that our previous Amiir had been martyred in a very strange incident; leaving him the natural successor. Of course I don’t blame Abu Cabdallaah for his death. But the story along with the picture on his camera phone showing that the bullet was aimed precisely for Abu Talxah’s heart makes me want to lay the blame on someone other than the Kuffaar.
The reason for this is the fact that there were multiple groups of Muhaajiriin and leaders in the area of Lekta during the time of Abu Talxah’s death and none of them were attacked by the Ethiopians until quite a while after the fateful shots rang out. In addition to that tid bit it was also said that he was called to have a meeting with some of the other leaders and he went accompanied by one of his lieutenants (while both of them were only armed with pistols). Minutes later shots could be heard and his lieutenant returned unscratched. He allegedly fought off the Ethiopians single handedly with his pistol while Abu Talxah, on the other hand, was shot square in the heart.
That lieutenant was later martyred trying to defend the wives of the Muhaajiriin (Abu Talxah’s included) on the Kenyan border. Once again, he was trying to fend off the Kenyan soldiers with only his pistol. That time, however, he was hit and martyred. No one till this day really knows the true story about his death, but there were definitely plausible motives amongst some of the other groups who didn’t take kindly to Abu Talxah’s insistence upon starting a new group in Kismaayu under the spiritual “leadership” of Xasan Turky.
So foreign fighters, when you get to Somalia, look around, one of the people standing next to you is quite likely to be your killer.
#2 – Clan Infighting
Hammami’s group, on the way to fight foreign forces, routinely encounters other clans they must fight or dissuade to get to their primary enemy. The original AQ documents from ’92-’94 continuously discuss how clan infighting derailed AQ operatives intentions (AFGP-2002-800640, pg 20ish, think the quote is Abu Hafs, something like “Tribalism, nasty tribalism, leave it [Somalia]”). Here’s a truck conundrum where fighting occurred with the Mooryaan.
It turns out that another truck full of Mooryaan came up to us and they shot out our radiator. In response, the brother in the passenger side of our truck shot out the brains of their driver! That was what led the Mooryaan to flee. Instead of chasing them, the brothers started trying to figure out which truck to board now that ours was in need of a radiator.
Later, Hammami notes how he wishes Axmad Madobe would have been killed as he later switches sides.
But before we actually set off we were awakening one night before dawn by the sounds of a million bullets trying to leave the barrel of one gun in about half a second, at regular pulses for a good minute or so. Later on we realized that we were close to Kolbiyo where Axmad Madobe and his crew were being blitzed from the sky. I heard that Abu Muxammad’s boy, Muxammad, was there and that only he (by virtue of running into the forest) and Axmad Madobe survived. In hindsight, it would have been better for Axmad Madobe to have died instead of coming back just to join the Kenyans in attacking Somaalia.
#3 – Water and Food
For Hammami’s crew, there’s either too much water or not enough. When traveling, their trucks inevitably get stuck in feet of mud. Even when they do find water, the source is fraught with competition from wild animals, rival clans or foreign armies. See pg. 74-75 for an interesting description as it appears that firefights in Southern Somalia are most likely to occur around watering holes as it brings everyone to a central point.
This water source as it turned out happened to be one used frequently by the Kenyan army.
Hammami and fellow fighters constantly fought for food to continue to survive.
There was also the time in which we sent a man off to come back with news and it seems that instead of bringing us the money and provisions he only brought us a small portion and kept the rest for himself.
#4 – It’s HOT!
For some reason, Hammami didn’t consider how hot Somalia is until he got there.
It was just as well anyway because the sun in Somaalia happens to be a few thousand light years closer to the earth’s surface than any other country. Any attempt to leave the little cover and shade the tiny trees can afford leads to an immediate heat stroke.
#5 – Going to the bathroom is difficult
Maybe the funniest revelation of Hammami’s bio, how difficult it is to go to the bathroom when you are dehydrated, malnourished and under constant military pressure from the land and air. This passage speaks for itself. P. 72
By this time everyone was complaining of strange slime in their stool and I don’t believe anyone was anywhere close to ‘regular.’ The trouble with using the bathroom was ten fold. There was the problem of finding a plastic bottle that was not currently in use at the moment, then there was the problem of lugging your hundred pound gun around while trying to fill that bottle up without falling in or getting your gun unnecessarily wet. We must remember now that the Bedouins and planes are still marauding about. After these tasks are completed it becomes necessary to find a place that is not inhabited by human or animal, that is not currently being used as a bathroom, that can not be stumbled upon by anyone while you’re in your comfort zone, and finally a place that is not too far to cause yourself to become lost or the unknown victim of some tragedy that people never came to know of. If you finally reach that place without loosing an eye from the thorns you may then use the bathroom while clutching your gun in the event that a wild animal or enemy approaches. After all is well and done it is finally time to retrace your steps and eventually return to your place of languishing under the trees until the next round.
#6 – Mosquitos!
What’s the number one killer of Shabaab members? The same as all Africans – malaria. Not only does Hammami repeatedly describe being eaten by mosquitos, he details how many of his comrades continue to expire from the disease. P. 77
that place of ours was cleared out once Jacfar Dheere breathed his last. He had been hanging in despite all odds for a long time but each day he had become weaker and weaker. He had to be carried to the bathroom, he had to be forced to eat or drink, which he normally vomited up, and he was in a generally wretched situation.
and one last reason for good measure – Transportation
Moving from place to place seems nearly impossible for Shabaab. Hammami’s bio discusses trucks maybe more than anything. Hammami’s band is always 1) searching for trucks, 2) riding in trucks to unknown locations, 3) getting trucks stuck in the mud and 4) quarreling with others over the ownership or movement of trucks. I literally laughed out loud as one of the funniest excerpts of the original AQ documents ’92-’94 describes how Sufis (Called “Big Hairs” in the documents, see AFGP-2002-600104- Author Saif al-Islam, p. 21ish) steal their truck “and how upset they were but they will go get it back”. Hammami’s group cannot ever seem to get where they want to go. Here’s a funny transportation excerpt from Hammami p.69:
One Somaali brother, who looked as though he was new to the matter of practicing his religion, decided to take my seat by force. When I objected, along with a few other brothers, he pretended not to hear anything. Finally, I got off the truck and asked for my bag. Everyone refused to sit up to give me my bag because they too feared losing their positions. Eventually Axmad Madobe climbed out of the truck and asked me nicely to get back on the truck. I explained to him the situation but he just coaxed me into leaving the whole matter.
I could probably come up with 100 reasons from this document, but I’ll stop here for now. Interested to hear how Hammami’s debacle shakes out…..