Alabaman turned terrorist: This is Omar Hammami

This journalist spent over a year speaking to one of FBI's most wanted terrorists. This is a glimpse into the mind of American jihadist Omar Hammami.

One of the FBI's most wanted terrorists.

Journalist Christof Putzel spent more than a year talking to him. Omar Hammami was born and raised in Daphne, Alabama, but ended up fighting alongside Al-Shabaab, who is basically the African version of Al-Qaeda. The 2 had initially been in contacted because Hammami wanted the journalist to release his autobiography. “I think Omar reached out to me because, one, he saw that I had done this huge profile on him. And at the end of the day, he was a bit of a narcissist and likes the attention. I also think that he saw my take on Somalia as being very fair and accurate.”, Putzel tells Brut.

Sharing the conversations the 2 had
7 years after Hammami’s death in 2013, Putzel decided to reveal in a podcast the conversations the two had. He explained why it took him so long to release the conversations stating, “I think for the first time I got so close to a story that I didn't know how to make sense of it, and I wasn't sure what it said about me. And it took many years for me to process it where I was ready to tell the story the rest of the world.”

Hammami’s background
Hammami grew up in a Baptist church. He converted to Islam when he was 15. Hammami radicalized gradually. He first dropped out of college. Then he moved to Canada, married a Somali-Canadian woman, joined Al-Shabaab in Somalia. From 2006 to 2013, Hammami served as a commander, propagandist, and recruiter within Al-Shabaab in Somalia. He addressed English speakers in his videos. But he started to speak out against Al-Shabaab leaders and invalidated their doctrine. Hammami became isolated on the run.

“Omar reached out to me when he actually thought that he was going to get killed and he had a right to be concerned because al-Shabaab was starting to kill off the foreign fighters or anyone who questioned them, including within their own ranks.”, Putzel reveals.

What to take away from this story
“I'm careful to cast Omar as somebody who is some kind of hero, really speaking up for everything that was wrong, because at the end of the day, I don't know if Omar would've found justification for certain actions when they were in his favor… One of the important things that we wanted to get across in this story was this is not a piece about Islam and what can happen if you get really in Islam, this is about a personality.”, Putzel concludes.