MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A rapping jihadi from Alabama who ascended the ranks of Somalia's al-Qaida-linked militant group high enough to attract a $5 million U.S. government bounty was killed Thursday in an ambush ordered by the militant group's leader, militants said.
Omar Hammami, a native of Daphne, Alabama, whose nom de guerre is Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or "the American," died Thursday in southern Somalia following several months on the run after a falling-out with al-Shabab's top leader, the militants said.
Reports of Hammami's death crop up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface alive and well a short while later. A U.S. terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of Somalia's al-Qaida-linked terror group says he thinks that the current reports of the death are accurate.
"I think it's very likely true based on the sources I am seeing," said J.M. Berger, who runs the website Intelwire.com.
Militants did not immediately present proof of Hammami's death.
A member of al-Shabab who gave his name as Sheik Abu Mohammed told The Associated Press that Hammami was killed in an ambush in Somalia's southern Bay region. Mohammed said some of his associates carried out the killing.
The U.S. put Hammami on its Most Wanted terrorist list in March and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Hammami, one of the two most notorious Americans in overseas jihadi groups, moved from Alabama to Somalia and joined al-Shabab in about 2006. He fought alongside the al-Qaida-linked group for years while gaining fame for posting YouTube videos of jihadi rap songs.
But Hammami had a falling out with al-Shabab and engaged in a long public fight with the group over the last year amid signs of increasing tension between Somali and foreign fighters in the group. He first expressed fear for his life in a web video in March 2012 that publicized his rift with al-Shabab. He said he received another death threat earlier this year that was not carried out.
"Just been shot in neck by shabab assassin. not critical yet," Hammami tweeted in April. He later wrote on Twitter that the leader of al-Shabab was sending in forces from multiple directions. "we are few but we might get back up. abu zubayr has gone mad. he's starting a civil war," Hammami posted.
Hammami has been a thorn in the side of al-Shabab after accusing the group's leaders of living extravagant lifestyles with the taxes fighters collect from Somali residents. Another Hammami grievance is that the Somali militant leaders sideline foreign militants inside al-Shabab and are concerned only about fighting in Somalia, not globally.
Straziuso reported from Nairobi, Kenya.
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