Somali soldiers open fire during an ambush by al-Shabaab militants. The US offers rewards of up to $7 million for information leading to the locations of its leaders. REUTERS photo
The United States is offering rewards of up to $7 million for information leading to the location of seven key leaders of Somalia’s al-Shabaab, seeking for the first time to target top echelons of the al-Qaeda-linked militant group.
U.S. officials said the rewards, scheduled to be announced on the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” website yesterday, opened a new front in the battle against al-Shabaab and signaled Washington’s determination to press the fight against terrorism across Africa.
“This is the first time we’ve had key leaders of al-Shabaab as part of the Rewards for Justice program,” said Robert Hartung, an assistant director at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which administers the program. The U.S. government in 2008 named al-Shabaab to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, imposing financial and other restrictions on the group.More than $100 million in three decades
The announcement will for the first time set specific prices on the heads of al-Shabaab leaders, topped by a reward of up to $7 million for information on the whereabouts of Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed, the group’s founder and overall commander, according to Reuters.
Rewards of up to $5 million are being offered for Ibrahim Haji Jama, another al-Shabaab co-founder, and group financier Fuad Mohamed Khalaf. U.S. officials say the Rewards for Justice program has paid out more than $100 million to more than 70 informants since it was established in 1984 and helped to find and convict 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, among others.