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NY Times: The Jihadist Next Door

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Submitted by Amir “MR”

By ANDREA ELLIOTT

ON A WARM, cloudy day in the fall of 1999, the town of Daphne, Ala., stirred to life. The high-school band came pounding down Main Street, past the post office and the library and Christ the King Church. Trumpeters in gold-tasseled coats tipped their horns to the sky, heralding the arrival of teenage demigods. The star quarterback and his teammates came first in the parade, followed by the homecoming queen and her court. Behind them, on a float bearing leaders of the student government, a giddy mop-haired kid tossed candy to the crowd.

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Omar Hammami had every right to flash his magnetic smile. He had just been elected president of his sophomore class. He was dating a luminous blonde, one of the most sought-after girls in school. He was a star in the gifted-student program, with visions of becoming a surgeon. For a 15-year-old, he had remarkable charisma.

Despite the name he acquired from his father, an immigrant from Syria, Hammami was every bit as Alabaman as his mother, a warm, plain-spoken woman who sprinkles her conversation with blandishments like “sugar” and “darlin’.” Brought up a Southern Baptist, Omar went to Bible camp as a boy and sang “Away in a Manger” on Christmas Eve. As a teenager, his passions veered between Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain, soccer and Nintendo. In the thick of his adolescence, he was fearless, raucously funny, rebellious, contrarian. “It felt cool just to be with him,” his best friend at the time, Trey Gunter, said recently. “You knew he was going to be a leader.”

A decade later, Hammami has fulfilled that promise in the most unimaginable way. Some 8,500 miles from Alabama, on the eastern edge of Africa, he has become a key figure in one of the world’s most ruthless Islamist insurgencies. That guerrilla army, known as the Shabab, is fighting to overthrow the fragile American-backed Somali government. The rebels are known for beheading political enemies, chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning women accused of adultery. With help from Al Qaeda, they have managed to turn Somalia into an ever more popular destination for jihadis from around the world.

More than 20 of those fighters have come from the United States, many of them young Somali-Americans from a gritty part of Minneapolis. But it is Hammami who has put a contemporary face on the Shabab’s medieval tactics. In a recent propaganda video viewed by thousands on YouTube, he is shown leading a platoon of gun-toting rebels as a soundtrack of jihadi rap plays in the background.

He is identified by his nom de guerre, Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, “the American,” and speaks to the camera with a cool, almost eerie confidence. “We’re waiting for the enemy to come,” Hammami whispers, a smile crossing his face. Later he vows, “We’re going to kill all of them.”

In the three years since Hammami made his way to Somalia, his ascent into the Shabab’s leadership has put him in a class of his own, according to United States law-enforcement and intelligence officials. While other American terror suspects have drawn greater publicity, Hammami exercises a more powerful role, commanding guerrilla forces in the field, organizing attacks and plotting strategy with Qaeda operatives, the officials said. He has also emerged as something of a jihadist icon, starring in a recruitment campaign that has helped draw hundreds of foreign fighters to Somalia. “To have an American citizen that has risen to this kind of a rank in a terrorist organization ­— we have not seen that before,” a senior American law-enforcement official said earlier this month.

Not long ago, the threat of American-bred terrorists seemed a distant one. Law-enforcement officials theorized that Muslims in the United States — by comparison with many of their European counterparts — were upwardly mobile, socially integrated and therefore less susceptible to radicalization. Perhaps the greatest proof of this came with the absence of domestic terrorist attacks following 9/11, a period that has brought Europe devastating homegrown hits in Madrid and London.

America is now at a watershed. In the last year, at least two dozen men in the United States have been charged with terrorism-related offenses. They include Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan immigrant driver in Denver who authorities say was conspiring to carry out a domestic attack; David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American from Chicago who is suspected of helping plan the 2008 attacks in Mumbai; and the five young men from Virginia who, authorities say, sought training in Pakistan to fight American soldiers in Afghanistan.

These cases have sent intelligence analysts scurrying for answers. The American suspects come from different backgrounds and socioeconomic strata, but they share much in common with Europe’s militants: they tend to be highly motivated, even gifted people who were reared in the West with one foot in the Muslim world. Others may see them as rigid or zealous, but they envision themselves as deeply principled, possessing what Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago, calls “an altruism gone wildly wrong.” While their religious piety varies, they are most often bonded by a politically driven anger that has deepened as America’s war against terrorism endures its ninth year.

The presence of Western troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has brought those conflicts closer for many Muslims in America. Through satellite television and the Internet, the distance between here and there — between Fort Hood, Tex., and Yemen, between Daphne, Ala., and Somalia — has narrowed. For Omar Hammami, the war in Iraq provided a critical spark as he turned toward militancy.

In an e-mail message in December, Hammami responded to questions, submitted to him through an intermediary, about his personal evolution and political views. “We espouse the same creed and methodology of Al Qaeda,” he wrote. Of Osama bin Laden, he said, “All of us are ready and willing to obey his commands.” Did Hammami, like bin Laden, consider America a legitimate target for attack? “It’s quite obvious that I believe America is a target,” he wrote.

OMAR HAMMAMI’S SISTER, Dena, is a petite 28-year-old woman with silky brown hair and a graceful manner. She lives with her husband and their baby daughter in an airy house overlooking a small American city, which she asked that I not identify for their protection.

Continuing Reading at  The New York Times

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Muslim American born in Brooklyn, NY with Guyanese parents currently living in Virginia working full-time as a web developer.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. slaveofAllah4lyf

    February 3, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    May I ask wat was the point of posting this? to make him look bad or good?
    coz i find him to be sincere n good….n i’d rather believe his statement of : “we help those people…”
    thn believe the lies of the media that they r “Terrorists”…..
    Wassalaam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh

  2. Abdullah

    February 3, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    slaveofAllah4lyf: We are all now stupider after reading your idiotic, illiterate post.

    • slaveofAllah4lyf

      February 3, 2010 at 10:09 PM

      yea yea….truth hurts…u ppl r big tym silencers of truth….wen i posted the comment on mystery poem….which contained an advice of neither supporting nor critisizing ppl (from the muslims) who are already dead..knowing tht you are not the 1 that prohibit the mercy n forgiveness of Allah….but u ppl didnt even let it go thru…u ppl claim of not supporting nor critisizing those ppl…but infact…u ppl critisize them…..Alhamdulillah this post is not being moderated…n im able to post this…

      • Abdullah

        February 4, 2010 at 10:37 AM

        What’s wrong with you? I’m guessing you’re about 10 years old. Does your mommy know you’re online?

        I can’t even understand what you’re attempting to write. Do you have any comprehension of the English language?

        • slaveofAllah4lyf

          February 4, 2010 at 11:07 AM

          nope…im 18….u cant understand wat i wrote…i guess tht makes u the 10 yrs old…not me….:) n mommy knows tht am onl9 :)

        • noon

          February 18, 2010 at 6:42 PM

          ouch

    • slaveofAllah4lyf

      February 3, 2010 at 10:24 PM

      also…plz remember this ayah next tym b4 posting any comment…

      يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِنْ قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِنْ نِسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ [٤٩:١١]

      O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.

      …n this was 1 of the topics about which i commented…altho i didnt post this ayah…i did post a hadith about a believer not being 1 who swears or curses….after a person commented…tht “curse zarqawi who is dead btw, n this was the reason why i posted the comment of not supporting nor critisizing him or any person who is dead coz u aint the 1 who controls Allah’s mercy n forgivness..n if Allah did forgive him….thn if ur a smart person…u’ll know tht u r cursing a person who is maybe prepared 4 jannah…

  3. Who

    February 3, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Abdullah, no we’re not… maybe since you didn’t understand it, you might be. Well, just go back to believing the NY Times and completely dismiss those who say they are fighting for Shariah… that seems to be the MuslimMatters stance after all.

    • Plaintruth

      February 3, 2010 at 11:03 PM

      This jerk is killing Somali Muslims and calling it jihad. The shabaab execute underage girls and bomb medical students.

      • Yahya Abdulla

        February 5, 2010 at 9:49 PM

        Thus says the media. So let us believe?

  4. Dan

    February 6, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    So where are the mods for allowing commenters to praise al-Qaeda and their allied groups on here, yet ban people for merely disagreeing with extremism?

  5. One Muslim

    February 18, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    Subhan’Allah, anyone who calls for striving fisabililah and the implementation of shari’ah is now labelled as ‘terrorist’ even by Muslims themselves. La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. The minute the media comes out with anything about our brothers some Muslims accept it without question. Sad.

  6. Bayan

    October 17, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    This man is nuuuuts. Somalia is totally wrecked by people like these, can’t they see that all they’re doing is destroying, not creating? May Allah guide them and stop this madness….

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