So who’s more dangerous America? Hammami or Barack Obama?
Fox News August 6, 2010
They’re both Americans with world-wide star power, calling for “jihad” while hiding out somewhere near the Gulf of Aden.
That’s why some terror experts believe Omar Hammami, the Alabama-born face of an Al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, could be evolving into “the next” Anwar Awlaki, the Arizona-born cleric living in Yemen who’s been connected to the Ft. Hood shootings, the failed Christmas Day bombing and the Times Square bombing attempt.
On Thursday, federal officials unsealed a years-old indictment against Hammami, charging him with providing material support to a terrorist group.
Known more commonly as “Abu Mansour Al Amriki,” Hammami has starred in several propaganda and recruitment videos for Al Shabab. The Al Qaeda linked group is fighting to make Somalia an Islamic state and has recruited dozens of Americans to its cause.
According to federal authorities, Hammami is also an “operational” and “ranking member” of Al Shabab, the group responsible for the recent terror attacks in Uganda. U.S. officials worry the group could turn its sights onto the United States.
Rick Nelson, a senior fellow specializing in counterterrorism issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, called Hammami’s rise “disturbing,” and part of a “growing trend” epitomized by Awlaki. Awlaki was built a strong following through his anti-Western lectures and other radical messages have been distributed throughout the world through audio files and online videos.
“The entire Al Qaeda movement has been very aggressive in trying to recruit citizens inside the United States, and you need an Anwar Awlaki, you need an Abu Mansour, who can operate very comfortably in both environments,” said Nelson, who now works with CSIS’ International Security Program. “Individuals like that are so invaluable. They can be very effective leaders and very effective recruiters to these causes.”
A source familiar with counterterrorism operations near the Horn of Africa agreed, saying Hammami and Awlaki are “both articulate because they are born Americans.”
But there are substantial differences, said the source, who asked not to be identified. In particular, the source said, Hammami is “a fighter” who is “ready and willing to die,” while Awlaki more of a “scholar” who has shied away from actual combat.
“I have yet to see Anwar speak on actual operations or be filmed on the ground,” the source said. “Anwar entices and inspires. Omar is waging a war on ground.”
Hammami has yet to release a video “inspiring people to revolt or carry out operations” inside the United States. By contrast, Awlaki’s messages call for just that: Attacks inside the United States.
A U.S. intelligence official, who spoke about Awlaki and Hammami on condition of anonymity also stressed that while both are charismatic, Awlaki has stature as a religious figure while Hammani does not. The official also noted that “Hammani does appear to be primarily focused on the Horn of Africa, whereas Awlaki has a broader message.”
Nelson, the CSIS senior fellow, acknowledged there are differences between Hammami and Awlaki, but “at the end of the day they’re still achieving the same goal,” he said.
“They’re still serving as valuable recruiting tools, they’re still seen as leaders inside their organizations, and they’re still getting individuals to potentially commit violent acts against U.S. citizens,” Nelson said.
Asked about it during a press conference in Washington on Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder declined to answer, saying, “I wouldn’t want to comment on any possibility of what action the United States might take or get into things that might be intelligence-derived.”
As for Nelson, he believes U.S. authorities should consider putting Hammami on the hit list — if he’s not already there.
“If he’s recruiting individuals inside the United States, U.S. citizens, with the idea that they’re going to kill Americans or even affect U.S. interests overseas, that’s significant,” Nelson said. “We can’t sit by and let that happen in hopes that one day we may or may not be able to bring him to justice.”