Omar Hammami was a fairly normal kid from a small town in Alabama — “as a teenager, his passions veered between Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain, soccer and Nintendo” — who is now in Somalia, leading terrorist attacks for a group called Shabab, which is loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda.
In the three years since Hammami made his way to Somalia, his ascent into the Shabab’s leadership has put him in a class of his own, according to United States law-enforcement and intelligence officials. While other American terror suspects have drawn greater publicity, Hammami exercises a more powerful role, commanding guerrilla forces in the field, organizing attacks and plotting strategy with Qaeda operatives, the officials said. He has also emerged as something of a jihadist icon, starring in a recruitment campaign that has helped draw hundreds of foreign fighters to Somalia. “To have an American citizen that has risen to this kind of a rank in a terrorist organization - we have not seen that before,” a senior American law-enforcement official said earlier this month.
See also a New Yorker article about Adam Gadahn, an American who is now a member of Al Qaeda.