How does a middle-class kid from suburban Alabama become one of the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted Terrorists? That’s the question journalist Christof Putzel hopes to answer in the explosive new podcast, “American Jihadi.”
Omar Hammami grew up a Southern Baptist in Daphne, Alabama. He first began to identify as Muslim in high school, after traveling to Syria and meeting his Muslim relatives. Eventually, he dropped out of college and moved to Canada, where he married a Somali-Canadian woman in 2004.
In 2006, he abandoned his wife and infant daughter to join the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Hammami served as a commander, propagandist and recruiter for the next seven years.
Along the way, he formed a bond with Putzel, a third-generation journalist who had covered terrorism for Al Gore’s short-lived channel Current TV.
“For more than a year we corresponded in secret, while he was hiding from U.S. forces,” Putzel says on the Podcast.
On September 12, 2013, Hammami was killed in an early-morning ambush southwest of the capital, Mogadishu. The FBI removed him from their Most Wanted Terrorists list in November 2013. He was removed from the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice list in January 2014.
But what made the former American shove aside his family and become a killer?
Across eight podcast episodes, “American Jihadi” will follow along as Hammami’s secret friendship with Putzel follows strange and twisted paths as they dodge government surveillance and risk everything to confide in one another.
With never-before-given interviews from Hammami’s family, the CIA and Putzel himself, “American Jihadi” questions what it means to be a journalist, a “hero” and an American.