Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, the American jihadist based in Somalia, has developed a new and unusual approach to recruiting Western Muslim recruits: hip-hop.
Over the past year Amriki, whose real name is Omar Hammami, and who was born to a Syrian father and Southern Baptist mother in Alabama 26 years ago , has released a series of five rap songs over the internet extolling the virtues of jihad and condemning America's presence in Muslim countries.
Hammami has been the star of jihadi videos praising Islamic militancy in Somalia and is believed to be a member of al Shahab, a Somali Islamic militant group aligned with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda that is currently fighting the fragile civilian government of Somalia.
While snippets of the five songs appeared in the background of a video released last year, the songs are now all available in their entirety on the internet. They represent a crude attempt to reach young, Western Muslims who may prefer to listen to music rather than a religious preacher.
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His most recent release, "First Stop Addis," however, named after the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, appears to be a few years old. The song, which emerged earlier this month and speaks of a love for "slaughter[ing] Crusaders," references ex-president George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "We're sending missiles through the streets," he warns in the nearly four minute track. "Destroys tanks, 'copters and Navy fleets. /Iraq and Afghanistan cause you to bleed/Touching Somalia/A regrettable deed."
In a better known title that emerged last year, "Blow by Blow," Hammami softly invites American military strikes in Afghanistan and Somalia, "Bomb by bomb/Blast by blast/Only going to bring back the glorious past." The song lasts about two minutes and 30 seconds.
The track is aimed at an English-speaking audience with a history lesson for those sympathetic to Islamic holy warriors. In one verse, Hammami explains, "It all started out in Afghanistan/When we wiped the oppressors off the land//The Union crumbled, rumbled and tumbled/Humbled, left them mumbled/Made a power withdraw and cower."
Both tracks consist only of Hammami rapping with no musical instrumentation. According to the strict interpretation of Islam current in al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, music is forbidden. Hammami appears to sidestep the prohibition by limiting himself to singing.
Omar Hammami moved to Toronto from Alabama in 2004 and married a Somali-Canadian woman. He moved to Egypt in 2005 and apparently to Somalia the following year. He gave an interview to al Jazeera in 2007 as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, which seems to be his first public appearance under that nom de guerre.
In April, a video called "Festival for the Children of the Martyrs" surfaced, showing Hammami among adults and children. Hammami can be seen giving toy guns to the children.