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Friday, October 19, 2012

Signs of Life (Maybe) from Omar Hammami

Omar Hammami in a video posted online this morning.

A previously unseen video from Alabama-born jihadist Omar Hammami was posted to YouTube early this morning.

In the video, titled "An Urgent Message," Hammami speaks for three minutes in Arabic. He appears to be sitting in the same room and wearing the same clothes as he was in the last video he posted online from Somalia nearly seven months ago.

Update: Hammami alive, speaks with Current TV

According to Somali journalists, the video appears to expand on the plea for help Hammami posted in that video, which indicated Al Shabab wanted to kill him. According to their translations, the newly released video is addressed to Al Qaeda and senior jihadists to inform them that foreign fighters in Somalia are experiencing problems with Al Shabab. He also said Shabab is not ready to carry out jihad on an international level. Hammami also asks for help in leaving Somalia, they said.

The video's caption reads "Waiting around to see how things develop. Stay tuned!" The video was also posted without further comment on a Twitter account used by an individual claiming to be Hammami's "PR rep."

Hammami has not been heard from since May, when he abruptly stopped communicating due to African Union forces fighting the Al Qaeda-linked militia Al Shabab in his vicinity. His last direct communication was with Christof Putzel of CurrentTV. His "PR rep" stopped emailing me at the same time.

In an interview with me for Foreign Policy in May, Hammami's "PR rep" expanded on the American jihadist's complaints about al Shabaab and said the Somali militia had not yet killed Hammami because it was "too messy politically."

"Things can't be done in the open, and he hasn't given them any opportunities to create an 'accident'," he said. The interview took place around the time Hammami posted "part 1" of his text autobiography and an audio lecture on the political priorities of jihadist movements, which he believed was partially responsible for his troubles.

In early October, the Washington Post ran a story suggesting Hammami was "on the run," but the assertion was weakly sourced.

This post has been updated.

For more about American jihadists, check out J.M. Berger's new book, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, on sale everywhere.


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    INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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