“Everyone was really shocked. Even now it’s difficult to believe a Muslim could have done this,” he told The Vanguard.
Mr. Hammami later wrote in an online autobiography that he already had turned toward radicalism by that time and privately praised Allah for the attacks.
Mr. Hammami later went to Egypt and joined Islamic insurgents, becoming a spokesman in videos and blogs.
He has since fallen out of favor with leaders of the Somalian terror group al-Shabab, which issued a statement recently distancing itself from Mr. Hammami, whom it accused of “a narcissistic pursuit of fame.”
In 2010, Mr. Wilson met Mr. Abukhdair online, according to the FBI. A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Mr. Abukhdair moved to Egypt in February 2007 to study Arabic, the FBI said. He was among a group of people arrested in Egypt in 2010 on suspicion of being involved with a terror group there.
He was put in prison for two months and was deported to the United States last year.
He lived in South Carolina and Ohio before coming to Mobile in late October 2011, according to an FBI agent’s sworn statement.
Leaders at the mosque didn’t return telephone calls seeking comment, and a worker shooed away a reporter who visited.
The FBI said it kept tabs on the pair through an undercover operative. Mr. Wilson “described Hammami as a friend and showed the (undercover operative) an al Qaeda video on his laptop praising jihad and the downfall of the West,” the FBI said.
“In addition to travel plans, they discussed their joy that Omar Hammami is now on the FBI ‘Most Wanted Terrorists’ list and were excited that he is now even more famous,” the FBI statement statement.
Mr. Wilson lived next door to Tom Rothaar for two years. Mr. Rothaar said he was a friendly neighbor who would have frequent yard sales with items he bought in bulk from big-box retail stores.
Mr. Rothaar said he was “staggered” by Mr. Wilson’s arrest and tried to make sense of it during a five-mile run.