Yesterday, I noted that Omar Hammami, currently under a bizarre state of house arrest in Somalia for speaking out against al Shabaab, had tweeted the following with regards to possibly seeking other jihadi campaigns in which to participate.
My response to Omar’s quip was:
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.
To this note, Omar gave a reasonable response yesterday.
I believe Omar is suffering from a “the grass is greener on the other side” problem. This is understandable. Omar is in a tough spot. Few situations can be described as much worse than the one he is in. Betrayed by al Shabaab, Omar remains dependent on his protectors to survive – protectors that likely have their own interests with regards to Omar and countering Shabaab. When the interests of Omar’s protectors change, so will Omar’s fate.
But let’s examine Syria as a ‘greener’ jihadi conflict. While it is likely more coherent and in line with jihadi ideals, I maintain that many, if not all, of the challenges encountered by Omar (i.e. takfiri ideology, hypocritical taxation, distrust of outsiders, etc.) in Somalia have already nested in Syria. Back in September, I discussed some of the internal conflicts festering in al Qaeda and the FSA in Syria. The post “Frontline Reporting On Foreign Fighters in Syria” showed the obvious fractures as Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reported for NPR.
I spoke to the regional commander of the Farouq brigade, a muscular young lieutenant from the southern province of Dara’a called Abdulah Abu Zaid. “I will not allow the spread of Takfiri [the act of accusing other Muslims of apostasy] ideology,” he told me in his military compound a few kilometres from the border post. “Not now, not later. The Islam we had during the regime was disfigured Islam and what they are bringing us is also disfigured. The Islam we need is a civil Islam and not the takfiri Islam.”
The jihadis, he said, had looted and stolen from the local people and demanded protection money from local businesses in order not to steal their merchandise. “I managed to stop them,” he said, “and I won’t let them spread here.”
Later that day he issued an ultimatum to their commander, a Syrian called Abu Mohamad al Abssi, to leave the area with his foreign jihadis or he would be killed.
Omar’s hopes for Syria are no different than for most people that are dissatisfied with their current station in life. It’s common to hear people at work talk about how great it will be when they go to a new job. This sort of behavior is very common with soldiers and I am prone to it as well. But it’s not long after arriving at the new greener pasture that folks often realize the new situation has its drawbacks as well. Soon the persistently unhappy employee begins chatting away about how great their last job was and begins hating on their current job. I imagine for Omar, even if he got to Syria, he would find the same discrepancies he encountered in Somalia. Takfiri ideology is rampant. Money is flowing into Syria from a host of donors and benefactors all that have their own interests of which there is only some overlap with the ideology Omar so cherishes. And of course, the dominant al Qaeda faction in Syria comes from al Qaeda in Iraq – the same group that spoiled their own foreign fighter flow by using global recruits to settle local scores. Here’s the article and here’s a quote from it:
By 2006, foreign fighter recruits were crossing the Iraqi border to find no mission waiting for them. They were also given suicide operations designed to settle local Iraqi disputes rather than achieve AQ’s global agenda.
So an interesting deliberation from Omar and now onto today’s O.T.R. (Omar Tweet Rundown):
Omar suggests al Shabaab wouldn’t exchange a prisoner for an old guard al Qaeda member because the old AQ dude might upset Godane’s control.
Omar suggests the lack of respect paid to Fazul after his death implies their culpability in Fazul’s death.
Thanks Omar for keeping it interesting. What I’m really curious about is whether the end of his 15 day window to turn over his weapon will still bring him into conflict with Shabaab? It seems Omar may have found a way out again. Only time will tell, I guess.