Twitter-loving American jihadi faces death threat from Somali militants after fallout

JOHANNESBURG — An Alabama native who moved to Somalia to wage jihad alongside al-Shabab militants faces a Saturday deadline to surrender to the insurgents or be killed, according to his Internet posting.

Omar Hammami — whom the FBI named as one of its most-wanted terrorists in November — has engaged in a public fight with al-Shabab over the last year, and a Twitter account that terrorism analysts believe is run by Hammami or his associates announced Jan. 4 that al-Shabab fighters had given him 15 days to surrender, or else.

“Shabab make (an) announcement in front of amriki: drop ur weapon b4 15 days or be killed. Its on,” the tweet from the Twitter handle (at)abumamerican said. Hammami’s nom de guerre is Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or “the American.”

The killing of an American foreign fighter would likely harm al-Shabab’s efforts to recruit Westerners, but Hammami has felt in danger for many months. Hammami first expressed fear for his life in an extraordinary web video last March that publicized his rift with the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab slapped Hammami publicly in an Internet statement last month, saying his video releases are the result of personal grievances that stem from a “narcissistic pursuit of fame.” The statement said al-Shabab was morally obligated to out his “obstinacy.”

Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who runs the website jihadology.net, thinks Hammami’s recent outbursts — on Twitter, and a short Arabic-language video — have been a way for the American to rally protective support for himself. Hammami has sought out al-Qaida central, the al-Qaida branch in Yemen and Islamic scholars to take his side, but he has largely been given the cold shoulder.