Islamist leader reveals rift in ranks of Somali Shebab militia
NAIROBI - A US-born Islamist fighter viewed as a key foreign leader within Somalia's Shebab militia allied with Al-Qaeda says he fears his life is now in danger from fellow extremists.
Omar Hamami -- better known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki -- gave the warning in an undated video posted on several Somali websites and YouTube Saturday.
"To whomever it may reach from the Muslims, from Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shebab al-Mujahideen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the Shariah (Islamic law) and matters of the strategy," he said, speaking in English.
The bearded Amriki, dressed in a black top and a checkered keffiyeh headscarf, posed in front of the Shebab's black flag and beside an automatic rifle in the minute-long video, but did not confirm his location.
He provided no further details about the threats or differences with other Shebab commanders, who have been battling to topple the weak Western-backed government propped up by over 10,000 African Union troops.
But the Shebab later denied threatening Amriki, expressing surprise at the video.
"We assure our Muslim brothers that AlAmriki is not endangered by the Mujahideen &our brother still enjoys all the privileges of brotherhood," the group's press office said on its Twitter page, adding that an investigation was underway and that it was verifying the video's authenticity.
In a separate Arabic-language statement, the Shebab said it was "surprised" by Amriki's video, according to SITE, a US-based monitoring group that tracks extremist websites.
"Until the investigations regarding the meaning and motives behind this video are completed, the Shebab al-Mujahideen Movement assures that everything stated in this video it is not true at all, and that the life of the brother is not threatened by the Shebab al-Mujahideen Movement," it said.
The video adds weight to reports of growing divisions within the Shehab, who face pressure on three fronts by regional forces and pro-government forces.
Amriki had previously been seen as a key leader for foreign fighters in the Shebab, alongside top Somali commanders Muktar Robow and Sheikh Hasan Dahir Aweys.
However, some suggest Somali Shebab fighters view the foreign gunmen as a liability -- even as potential spies -- while missile strikes have targeted the foreign extremists.
Alabama-born Amriki, who has reportedly been based in anarchic Somalia since late 2006 and is wanted by the United States on terror charges, has issued previous videos calling for foreign recruits, including singing rap songs praising jihad.