NAIROBI, Kenya – An American from Alabama who joined Somalia's most dangerous militant group has released two new rap songs on the Internet, a possible indication that he is still alive after rumors circulated of his death during heavy fighting in Mogadishu.
Omar Hammami, who grew up in the middle-class town of Daphne, Alabama, joined the al-Qaida-linked Somali militants in 2007 while he was in his early 20s, becoming the most high-profile American member of al-Shabab. He took the nom de guerre of Abu Mansur al-Amriki, or "the American."
A jihadist website posted two songs over the weekend in which Hammami raps that he wants to die a martyr. He cites previous militant leaders killed by U.S. military action like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a militant killed in a U.S. commando raid in rural southern Somalia in September 2009.
The two songs are titled "Send Me a Cruise (missile)" and "Make Jihad With Me."
Last month Somalia's defense minister told The Associated Press that intelligence reports indicated that Hammami may have been killed during an anti-insurgent offensive. But the minister said the reports weren't confirmed.
Though Hammami appears to still be alive, his lyrics yearn for death.
"There's nothing as sweet as the taste of a tank shell," he says in one song, according to a transcription by the website The Long War Journal. "It was a beautiful day, when that predator paradise missile sent me on my way."
Bill Roggio, the managing editor of The Long War Journal, said the lyrics have two aims: to appeal to rebellious Western Muslims who might be recruited into militant groups, and to dispel reports of Hammami's death.
"Hammami is stressing an often-repeated theme in jihadist circles: that dying while waging jihad is both noble and desired," Roggio said.
Hammami has starred in previous jihadist videos that showed him rapping and running with gun-wielding fighters.
He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in al-Shabab in August. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said then that Hammami "has assumed an operational role in that organization."