Al-Shabab slapped Hammami publicly in an Internet statement last month, saying his video releases are the result of personal grievances that stem from a "narcissistic pursuit of fame." The statement said al-Shabab was morally obligated to out his "obstinacy."
Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who runs the website jihadology.net, thinks Hammami's recent outbursts — on Twitter, and a short Arabic-language video — have been a way for the American to rally protective support for himself. Hammami has sought out al-Qaida central, the al-Qaida branch in Yemen and Islamic scholars to take his side, but he has largely been given the cold shoulder.
Watts said Hammami seems to indicate he is in a region of Somalia controlled by Mukhtar Robow, a rival al-Shabab leader of Godane's, so may have some clan protection there. But it's unclear if Robow would save the life of the American, Watts said.
Hammami has been seen in videos among al-Shabab's leaders, but he was passed over for a promotion and sidelined within the movement, Roggio said.
Hammami grew up in Daphne, Alabama, a bedroom community of 20,000 outside Mobile. The son of a Christian mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father, Hammami once served as the president of the Muslim Student Associated at the University of South Alabama. He moved to Somalia in 2005 or 2006.
Associated Press reporter Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.
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