NAIROBI: American citizen and a key leader of foreign fighters in Somalia, who came to fame as a rapper calling for “jihad” before joining Islamist militants in Somalia, said he feared for his life after the Al-Shabab militant group had differences with the foreign fighters.
Omar Hamami, also known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, who is a leading militant in Somalia, said on YouTube that a dispute between his group and the ultra-conservative Shabab over the implementation of Sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.
He said it meant his life was in danger.
But the Shabab, who have been pushed back from territory by the African Union, said that Hamami, born in Alabama, has nothing to fear from the group.
“We assure our Muslim brothers that Al Amriki is not endangered by the Mujahideen,” the group said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“A formal investigation is just underway and HSM (Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen) is still attempting to verify the authenticity as well as the motivations behind the video,” the group added.
The claim by Hamami will be seen in many quarters as proof of growing divisions within the insurgent group, which is ceding ground under pressure from African Union, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces.
There have long been rumors of divisions between local fighters and foreign extremists, who arrived in their hundreds from Pakistan, Yemen, Britain and the United States to help the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab.
The foreigners are key targets for strikes allegedly carried out by US drones. The US is concerned that Somalia is increasingly becoming a breeding ground for terrorists plotting attacks on international targets.
Meanwhile, on Saturday there were reports that jets bombed an al-Shabab base north of its stronghold of Kismayo.
Casualty figures were unknown, and the Kenyan army – which has used its aerial power to hit al-Shabab targets over the last six months – would not confirm any involvement.
Al-Shabab’s insurgency got underway in early 2007 and is the latest episode in over two decades of conflict sparked by the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
** with dpa