In this 2011 file photo, American-born Islamist militant Omar Hammami, right, and deputy leader of Al Shabab Sheik Mukhtar Abu Mansur Robow, left, sit under a banner which reads "Allah is Great" during a news conference of the militant group at a farm in southern Mogadishu's Afgoye district in Somalia (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
When Osama bin Laden wanted to share his thoughts with the world, he would videotape himself, and though a network of couriers, get that tape into the hands a broadcaster who was willing to air the clips.
Twitter has given at least one self-proclaimed enemy of America a more immediate way to communicate.
Born and raised in Alabama by a Southern Baptist mother and Syrian-born father, Omar Hammami moved to Mogadishu in 2006 and fast became one of the most visible faces of Somalia’s war. Seven years later, Hammami is using social media to threaten America, and have exchanges with analysts, academics and journalists alike.
Hammani, aka @abuamerican, has roughly 1,100 followers on Twitter and has posted some 1,200 messages on the site. He recently agreed to an interview with Wired magazine, using Twitter’s direct message function.
“I believe in attacking U.S. interests everywhere,” he told the magazine over the course a week-long correspondence. “No 2nd thoughts and no turning back.’
Remembering 9/11, he wrote his neighbours “acted as if they would not fix my car unless I denounced bin Laden and praised George Bush. 9/11 simply made me more politically [conscious], not knee jerk tho.”
Terror, he told the magazine, was never “my ultimate goal. jihad was my obligation and the nwo” — that is, the New World Order — “my enemy.”
Last month the U.S. placed a $5 million bounty on Hammami’s head.
The Star’s Michelle Shephard wrote last May about Hammami’s online biography, in which he remembered a year spent in Toronto in 2004. Hammami’s year in Toronto came after he converted to Islam and quit university in 2002, dashing his father’s dream that he would become a surgeon.
Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at the Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead