Omar Hammami, who Wired called "the most prominent American jihadi left alive," just tweeted that he'd been shot in the neck in an attempted assassination. It's worth taking the tweet with a grain of salt, but, if true, certainly moves Hammami into the lead for "tweet sent under the most duress."
Hammami, who lives in Somalia, is worth $5 million to the United States government if captured. That bounty stems from the Alabama-born Hammami having joined the militant Islamic group al-Shebab in 2006. In 2012, al-Shebab became a part of Al Qaeda, under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri — but Hammami had already split with the group, prompting it to denounce him.
And according to Hammami's Twitter account, @abumamerican, today it prompted the group try and kill him.
just been shot in neck by shabab assassin. not critical yet— abu m (@abumamerican) April 25, 2013
sitting in tea place then 3 shots behind to left. pistol i think. they ran— abu m (@abumamerican) April 25, 2013
@jarret_brachman cheaper than a drone, but expensive on shabab's credibility. the shooter's been i.d.'ed as known shabab assassin— abu m (@abumamerican) April 25, 2013
Clearly, if Hammami is indeed tweeting these updates, the wound isn't serious. (In another update, he says, "[n]o windpipe or artery" was hit.) But it still seems hard to believe that someone could get on Twitter so soon after nearly being murdered. A quick look at the metadata of his tweets doesn't offer much insight: they aren't geolocated (which is probably a wise decision), nor is the Twitter tool used to make the updates identified.
While the tweeting under such conditions is something of a surprise, an attack wouldn't be. Despite his commitment to jihad, Hammami has cultivated a number of friendships using Twitter as a medium. Ackerman writes:
[S]ome wonder if Hammami’s friendliness isn’t a subtle opening, a climbdown for him to get out of the jihadi life before Shebab comes for him with a Kalashnikov or the Joint Special Operations Command comes for him with a Predator. [Author J.M.] Berger, who has talked with Hammami for longer and in greater depth than any counterterrorism professional, feels strongly that reaching out to him is worth a shot — even if it doesn’t work out. “There’s kind of a weird camaraderie that’s come out of these exchanges,” Berger says. “Odds are, it ends badly for us.” That is: either Hammami kills an innocent person in pursuit of his jihad, or he gets killed himself.
We'll just have to wait and see what he tweets next.
Update, 6:32 p.m.: Hammami tweeted images of his wounds, including this one.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.