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Hammami’s Plight Amidst al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda’s Game of Thrones

HSPI Commentary 25
March 19, 2012
Clint Watts & Andrew Lebovich

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"American al-Shabaab commander Omar Hammami, known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, on Friday sat alone in front of a flag commonly associated with al-Qaeda and said that the organization for which he’d fought for much of the last five years, al-Shabaab, might be trying to kill him. The video, the first public message from Hammami since last October, caught many counterterrorism analysts off guard.

The release is an unprecedented public admission of fear and weakness from a jihadist figure. But it has brought to the fore a game of thrones occurring in Somalia as rival al-Shabaab factions compete for power and eliminate their rivals, even as the organization has more tightly joined itself to al-Qaeda’s global jihad. Hammami’s video confirms not only a power struggle within al-Shabaab, but may also point to a larger battle for leadership supremacy in a post-Bin Laden al-Qaeda. 

Counterterrorism analysts promoting Hammami as the clear successor to Anwar al-Awlaki were off the mark. Recent machinations should serve as reminders to analysts and commentators alike that jihadist groups--like other militant organizations--are rarely unified, and are often subject to a number of internal and external pressures." More

Clint Watts is a Senior Fellow at HSPI and currently working at Navanti Group. Andrew Lebovich is currently serving as a Senior Analyst at Navanti Group.

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Founded in 2003, The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) is a nonpartisan think and do tank whose mission is to build bridges between theory and practice to advance homeland security through an interdisciplinary approach. By convening domestic and international policymakers and practitioners at all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and academia, HSPI creates innovative strategies and solutions to current and future threats to the nation.