August 12th, 2010
02:43 PM ET

The road to terror training camps sometimes begins in the U.S.

Omar Hammami is living proof that there is no one road to terrorism.

U.S. officials believe the journey for Hammami - one of 14 U.S.-born and naturalized citizens to be indicted last week on charges of conspiring with a Somali terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda - took him from a small town in Alabama to a radical command role in Somalia.

Hammami was a late convert to Islam, becoming passionate about his father's faith during high school in Alabama. He was born in Daphne, a small town nestled in the Bible belt where Islam was not only uncommon, but rebuffed. His hijab and public prayer made Hammami a target for insults in the conservative community.

He dropped out of the University of South Alabama in 2002, moving to Toronto, Canada, and then to Cairo, Egypt, as he searched in vain for a setting where Islam was practiced as rigidly as he believed it should be.

It is possible that Christof Putzel - a correspondent for Current TV's documentary series, "Vanguard" - once brushed arms with Hammami. Putzel was finishing a story in Somalia in 2006 as Hammami entered the country to seek out al-Shabaab. Putzel later created a documentary that retraces Hammami's steps from young American to "American Jihadi."

"American Jihadi" culminates in Somalia, where Hammami joined the ranks of al-Shabaab, or "The Youth."

Hammami is a top commander of al-Shabaab and the organization's most successful recruiter, Putzel says. Since he appeared on the Al-Jazeera TV network and the YouTube website in 2007, more than 30 young Muslims have disappeared from Hammami's old stomping grounds in the U.S and Canada, only to reappear fighting with al-Shabaab. FULL POST

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Filed under: Security Brief
August 11th, 2010
11:13 AM ET

Path to terror: alienation, isolation

Omar Hammami is living proof that there is no one road to terrorism.

U.S. officials believe the journey for Hammami - one of 14 U.S.-born and naturalized citizens to be indicted last week on charges of conspiring with a Somali terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda - took him from a small town in Alabama to a radical command role in Somalia.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Justice • National security • Security Brief