This weekend saw the full scale escalation of a Twitter war between Omar Hammami (or at least the Twitter account associated with him) and most of the Muslim world. Here’s a quick recap of events.
On Friday, I left off with this note reference Hammami’s claims that he had gained some defenders from the Raxanweyn clan.
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)
Well Saturday morning U.S. time, Hammami answered this question posting this photo on the @abumamerican Twitter account.
Well, I guess that clears it up a bit. Hammami’s tweet after this picture says he is with other foreign fighters who have been outcast from Shabaab. This makes sense and may also suggest his Twitter account has been operated by a team of people with whom he is detained or closely affiliated. This might potentially explain the tendency to speak in the third person, occasionally tweet in Somali and Swahili languages, etc. What’s also interesting is the pattern of Hammami tweets. They come in bursts and endure only for a few hours before dropping off. This could mean several things such as only having limited power for communication before having to recharge, only being able to communicate before or after a guard shift, operating the tweets on a delay through a relay point, or only having cell coverage for certain periods of the day. Overall, I think Omar’s speaking in third person stuff is a bit ridiculous at this point. Lastly, who let Ali G join Hammami? He’s got some nice gear and a tough look. Nice!
Hammami suggests in his Twitter feed that he recently received some visitors and now may have some more folks to protect him. It also seems he may have been visited by a ‘Sheikh’, potentially form Kenya, who was trying to negotiate some sort of settlement or something. I may be confused on this. (I’m not sure why I would be confused since understanding terrorist infighting in 140 characters or less is so easy.)
Here’s a quick O.T.R. (Omar Tweet Rundown), noting where there is something interesting, significant or just generally funny.
Omar doesn’t like Godane - What’s glaringly obvious is that he does not like Ahmed Godane (Abu Zubayr) the head of al Shabaab. Omar claims on many occasions that Godane’s takfiri ways led to him excommunicating Omar & friends. In addition, Omar believes Godane is a sissy who never fights in battles and thus is not a true jihadi. (Tell me this is not typical Game of Thrones stuff!)
Omar says that Fazul and old al Qaeda dudes never liked Shabaab – I’ve contended for a while that it was old al Qaeda guys aligned with Bin Laden, namely Fazul, that prevented the merger of al Qaeda and al Shabaab. Omar seems to suggest the same. I’m not sure how he would know this, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Omar doesn’t like e-jihadi’s who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk – Omar displayed his frustration in the past about not getting much attention from al Qaeda’s online community. Omar amplified his view of al Qaeda’s online-only supporters this weekend and I imagine he will continue bashing e-jihadi’s until he gets their attention.
Omar thinks Omar is a big deal – Shabaab contended in December that Omar was a narcissist. Well, some of these tweets seem to suggest he is quite a diva. It also appears that he might have liked the show In Living Color as a kid, homie!
Omar says he escaped to Bay and Bakool region – As I assumed from his previous tweets about the Rahanweyn clan, Omar is in Sheikh Robow’s territory in Bay and Bakool.
Omar isn’t getting along with the MYC in Kenya – The Muslim Youth Center, a younger Kenyan extremist group aligned with al Shabaab, have really been sticking it to Omar on Twitter. Despite sticking up for Kenyans a good bit and warning Kenyans not to join Shabaab, Omar has been getting a lashing from those guys. (BTW, the MYC Twitter feed is way better than the Shabaab feed. Whomever mans the MYC Twitter account is using it way more effectively than @HSMPress – Shabaab account)
Lastly, Omar seems to be re-directing any of his supporters away from Shabaab and to other jihadi conflicts – namely Syria. One of the questions posed is here below. It seems Omar mistakenly believes that the infighting and conflict he’s found in Shabaab would be absent from the front in Syria. I think he needs to do some research.
My last point is for those analysts that maintain that al Qaeda Central or al Qaeda as a collective organization is ‘stronger‘. In light of the Hammami diatribes, how can this be? Do you believe a Bin Laden led al Qaeda would allow such a damaging, public dispute occur within its ranks? I know there have been rifts in al Qaeda before, but they were private and settled without tainting the organization’s foreign fighter pipelines. While I understand the perspective that certain al Qaeda affiliates may be getting relatively stronger, I do not understand, in light of the recent musings of Omar Hammami on social media, how one can believe that al Qaeda as a whole is stronger. As Omar suggested in previous tweets, al Qaeda may be having a schism of its own at the highest levels. At the lower ranks, where foreign fighters reside, Hammami’s enduring public bashing shows a loss of centralized control and awareness on the part of al Qaeda globally.