NAIROBI: Top in Bible school, missing his family, and craving Chinese takeaways: an American extremist in Somalia's al Qaeda affiliated rebels recounts his life in an autobiography he has penned.
Titled “The Story of An American Jihadi” and posted on religious websites, the book claims to be written by Alabama-born Omar Hammami — better known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki (the American).
If confirmed, the book — signed by Amriki “still alive and well” on May 16 — would be the first confirmation he is alive after a furious dispute with Shebab leaders. In March, he issued a video warning he feared he would be killed.
“I guess I hope that Muslims around the world also take my life as an example,” he wrote in the book, detailing his time alongside Somali fighters as well as insurgents from the US, Britain, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan.
“Not that I'm extremely special, but then again I haven't seen too many middle class 'white guys' from Alabama in jihad these days. Hopefully others will say to themselves: I can do that too!”
Amriki, who has reportedly been based in anarchic Somalia since late 2006 and is wanted by the US on terrorism charges, has issued previous videos calling for foreign recruits, including singing rap songs praising holy war.
“I am not simply a disenfranchised foreigner who is jealous of America,” the 28-year old said, writing thousands of miles from the small town of Daphne, Alamaba where he grew up.
“The real fear that Americans feel when they see an American in Somalia talking about jihad, is not how skillful he is at sneaking back across the borders with nuclear weapons,” he added.
“The Americans fear that their cultural barrier has been broken, and now jihad has become a normal career choice of any youthful American Muslim.”
Britain's security think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, estimates the total number of foreign fighters within the Shebab to be around 200.
He explains he wrote the book because the “war of narratives has become even more important than the war of navies, napalm and knives.”
Detailing his upbringing by a southern Baptist mother with Irish roots and a Muslim father with a Syrian background, Amriki documents teenage crushes on girls, deer hunting, and how he was once “the best student in Bible school.”
“I think having the IRA on one side of my family tree and al Qaeda on the other might have given me a bit of a bad temperament,” he writes in an apparent joke, adding that he wished he could see his relatives again.
“What I would like though is to have a three day visit to see my mom, dad and sister...I often wonder what this whole experience has done to them,” he writes, as well as missing his daughter whom he abandoned in Egypt as a baby.
“After going through all the hugs and kisses, me and Dena (his sister) would probably go running around town laughing our heads off and talking about a billion things without ever finishing a conversation,” he wrote.
“I'd like to make a round of the restaurants and get some Chinese food, some hot (chicken) wings, some Nestle ice cream, some gourmet coffee and a slew of other foods and beverages.”
He 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, although many have sought to downplay his significance.
Some suggest Somali Shebab fighters view the foreign gunmen as a liability — even as potential spies — while missile strikes have targeted the foreign extremists.
Amriki details his arrival in Mogadishu airport and struggle to integrate with the fighters, and his joy at being given an automatic rifle — which he admits he had at first “had no idea how to use”.
Later he receives hand grenades, his experience of which he admits was limited to that of “anyone who had previously watched a Rambo flick (film)”.
But he also details hardships including poor food, as well as a constant fear of attacks by unmanned drone aircraft which he claimed “just want to kill off every white” fighter with the Shebab.
“The common discussions were whether or not it was lawful to eat frogs...we would find comfort in remembering the different restaurants, fast food joints and home cooking” left behind, he added.
Amriki, whose closing remarks in the book are “viva la revolucion”, adds that he can now “only pray that Allah grants me a righteous ending”.
“I knew that I was going to become a fugitive for the rest of my life when I made that decision (to fight in Somalia), I was well into the post 9/11 era,” he wrote.