Asked about the split with al Shabaab, Abu Muhammad pointed to several passages in the autobiography which he said were relevant to the rift, adding details in several instances. The story that emerges is one of bloody internal feuds and bad behavior toward foreign fighters, which Abu Muhammad said were at the core of the dispute.
Abu Muhammad said there had been a pattern of politically motivated assassinations of Somali jihadist leaders by other leaders of both the Islamic Courts Union and al Shabaab. One of the first incidents that came to Hammami's attention was the 2007 killing of Abu Talha As-Sudani, a Somali jihadist with long ties to al Qaeda.
The official story from Shabaab was that Abu Talha had been killed fighting the Ethiopians, Hammami wrote in his autobiography. But the timeline of the alleged attack did not add up and a photo of Abu Talha's body suggested he might not have died in the heat of combat.
"The story, along with the picture on his camera phone, showing that the bullet was aimed precisely for Abu [Talha's] heart makes me want to lay the blame on someone other than the Kuffaar [infidels]," Hammami wrote.
Hammami said that other mujahideen leaders had "plausible motives" for the killing, pointing out that Abu Talha was considering starting a splinter group that would be loyal to Hasan Turky, a leader in the Islamic Courts Union whom Hammami believed was tied to al Qaeda. (The autobiography mentions several al Qaeda operatives who were active within the Islamic Courts Union.)
Although Abu Muhammad would not confirm Hammami's specific suspicions about more recent killings, al Qaeda and al Shabaab analysts pointed to the deaths of Somalia-based al Qaeda leaders Harun Fazul and Bilal al-Barjawi, and a Shabaab official named Sakr, as a possible jihadist "Night of the Long Knives" meant to clear the decks of bin Laden loyalists and lay the groundwork for the official merger of al Shabaab and al Qaeda under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri in February 2012, about one month before Hammami posted his video.
The autobiography also catalogs Hammami's complaints about the treatment of scores of foreign fighters from the United States and Europe, including what he viewed as unnecessarily brutal training techniques, discriminatory practices, and frequent efforts to marginalize their role in battle. Hammami cited conflicts within al Shabaab over how to treat suspected spies among the foreign fighters, including whether they should be summarily executed. A spate of such executions took place shortly before Hammami posted the March video.
Abu Muhammad cautioned that the foreign fighter rift was broader than these incidents but did not provide specifics. In the autobiography, Hammami notably depicts himself as a sort of labor union organizer on behalf of the foreign fighters, a role he describes as contentious.
At least 40 Americans have gone to Somalia to join the Islamic Courts Union and/or al Shabaab, in addition to dozens more who have provided financial and material support while remaining on U.S. soil. Al Shabaab has featured its Western fighters prominently in propaganda videos, and in 2010, Terrance Ford, director of intelligence and knowledge development for the U.S. Army's Africa Command, said several Americans held senior leadership roles in the organization.
Finally, the autobiography revealed for the first time that Hammami had been writing jihadist strategy papers under the name Abu Jihad As-Shaami. These papers represent Hammami's effort to expand his role from the battlefield and to claim credibility as a jihadist ideologue, an effort which succeeded to some extent -- perhaps too well.
Abu Muhammad indicated in an e-mail that one of Hammami's "Abu Jihad" tracts was pertinent to the American's current woes. "The Vision of the Jihaadi Movement and the Strategy for the Current Stage" attracted significant attention from Western analysts as an argument in favor of al Qaeda's global ambitions but with criticism of its tactics and priorities -- such as Ayman al-Zawahiri's obsession with the Sykes-Picot borders, an overemphasis on the importance of Jerusalem, and especially a lack of short-term focus on the long-term goal of establishing a global caliphate.