An American-born jihadist who rose to become one of Somalia's top-ranked rebels with al-Qaida ties was reportedly among those killed Thursday in an ambush ordered by the terror group's leader, with whom he had a falling out.
Omar Hammami, a rapper originally from Alabama, was known in the organization of al-Shabaab as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, or "The American." One of the rebels, who identified himself as Sheik Abu Mohammed, told the The Associated Press that the jihadist was gunned down
in southern Somalia Thursday after being on the run for several months. The French news agency Agence France Presse also reported similar circumstances for Hammami's alleged death, citing sources within the region.
Mohammed told the wire service that some of his associates executed the mission, in which two other fighters with Hammami were also killed.
Born in Daphne, Ala., in 1984, to a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father, the 29-year-old Hammami was one of the most infamous Americans in jihad organizations. He moved from Alabama to join al-Shabaab around 2006, and fought with the group for years until reports surfaced regarding tension between Somali and foreign fighters within the group.
In his autobiography, "The Story of An American Jihadi," which was released last year on Islamist websites, Hammami wrote about his evolution from Bible student to a wanted man.
"I guess I hope that Muslims around the world also take my life as an example," he wrote. "Not that I'm extremely special, but then again I haven't seen too many middle class 'white guys' from Alabama in jihad these days. Hopefully others will say to themselves: I can do that too!"
Hammami publicized his rift in a March 2012 YouTube video and said that he feared for his life, according to ABC News.
He recently appeared on the FBI's Most Wanted terrorist list with a $5 million reward offered for information leading to his capture.
His death had been reported multiple times, but was always proven false when he would be spotted. This time, a U.S. terrorism expert feels the Islamist is truly dead.
"I think it's very likely true based on the sources I am seeing," Berger, J.M. Berger, who runs the website Intelwire.com and studies the al-Shabaab rebels, told the AP.
Numerous attempts had been made on his life, according to his Twitter posts from the past year.
"Just been shot in neck by shabab assassin. not critical yet," Hammami tweeted after an April attack. Later, he wrote that the al-Shabaab leader was coming at him from several directions. "We are few but we might get back up. abu zubayr has gone mad. he's starting a civil war," he posted.
Among the reasons for the rift are posts by Hammami that accused al-Shabaab's leaders of living lavishly with taxes collected from Somali residents. Before the disagreement, Hammami often appearance in al-Shabaab combat videos. In 2011, he released two rap songs, "Send Me a Cruise (Missile)" and "Make Jihad With Me."
Contacted by ABC News, Hammami's father, Shafik, said Thursday that, if his son had actually been killed, he died fighting for what he believed.
"Our lives have been on a roller coaster for a long time, and we've been there before... we just hope that it's not true this time," Shafik Hammami told ABC News in a phone interview. "He did what he wanted to do and he fulfilled his principles. If he indeed died, he died fighting for his principles, whatever they are."
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