The U.S. State Department issued a $3 million bounty for the al-Shabaab intelligence chief, who recently surrendered to Somali and African Union forces near the border with Kenya and Ethiopia.
MOGADISHU, Somalia, Dec. 27 (UPI) — A top leader in terror group al-Shabaab surrendered to Somali government authorities in the east African nation’s border regions, officials said Saturday.
Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi was the chief of intelligence for al-Shabaab and had worked with the group’s former leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in September.
The U.S. State Department issued a $3 million bounty for Hersi as part of its “Rewards for Justice Program” after the U.S. designated al-Shabaab a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” and a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity” in 2008.
Hersi gave himself up to Somali government and African Union forces in the the Gedo region near the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya, officials said Saturday.
“We’re looking at someone who, potentially, will bring with them an encyclopedic knowledge of the organization: Who is in charge of what, what their modus operandi is and so on. It could fill in a lot of intelligence gaps,” a Western intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous reportedly told Al Jazeera.
The source said Hersi’s surrender was likely motivated by in-fighting within the al-Qaida-affiliated group, which underwent bloody purges while Godane was still alive and in charge.
Al-Shabaab has not commented on Hersi’s capitulation.
The surrender comes after a Christmas-day attack by al-Shabaab on the Halane military base in Mogadishu, where African Union forces in Somalia, called AMISOM, are headquartered. Three AMISOM soldiers and a civilian contractor were killed in the attack, along with five militants.