A rapping, 28-year-old American from Alabama has been added to the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists. Omar Shafik Hammami, otherwise known as Al-Amriki, or "the American," is believed to be in Somalia, where he has become a senior leader of the Islamist al-Shabab militia.
As The Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan reported, Amriki, who has a Syrian father and an Irish-American mother, discovered ultraconservative Islam while a student at the University of South Alabama. He traveled to Somalia in 2006 and joined al-Shabab to fight U.S.-backed African Union forces.
For the past three years, the Daphne, Ala., native has been living in the coastal town of Marka, Somalia, with his three wives and five children.
He soon became a commander in the militia, training fighters and leading operations in Somalia.
He was indicted in the United States on charges of terrorist activities, and a federal warrant was issued for his arrest in 2007.
He has also become one of al-Shabab's most prolific propagandists, using YouTube, Facebook and other sites to spread the militants’ message -- occasionally in rap form.
But as Raghavan reported, Amriki's previously proud social media postings have recently given way to more anxious videos in which he appears to fear death at the hands of his fellow jihadists.
Security officials say he is no longer in favor within the militia, although he still has support from some leaders, and African Union officers still see him as a key commander.
Meanwhile, al-Shabab has lost several recent battles in Somalia and was pushed out of its last stronghold in Kismayo by African troops in September.
“Al-Shabab relies on him,” Maj. Patrick Cherop, a military intelligence officer for the African Union forces near Marka, told Raghavan. “If we capture him, then we can blow them down.”
Douglas Astralaga, the supervisory special agent for the FBI in Mobile, Ala., told ABC News he couldn’t comment on why Amriki was being added to the Most Wanted Terrorist list now, but said that information against him “met the criteria” for being added to the list.
Bill Roggio, editor of the the Long War Journal, told the Birmingham News that he is not aware of any new developments that would justify a change in Amriki's status and noted that he already had been on the U.S. State Department’s designated list of global terrorists.
“I would say it’s just a bureaucratic move,” he said.
In addition to Amriki, the FBI added Raddulan Sahiron, a suspected leader of the Filipino terror group Abu Sayyaf, to the list, which now consists of 31 people.
The FBI site invites people with information about Amriki to contact the local FBI office or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.