Al Shabab leader surrenders in Somalia
NAIROBI // A leader with the Islamist extremist group Al Shabab, who had a US$3 million (Dh11m) bounty on his head, has surrendered in Somalia.
Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi surrendered to police in the country’s Gedo region, where Somalia borders Kenya and Ethiopia, a Somali intelligence officer said on Saturday.
Military official Mohamed Osmail said Hersi was hiding in a house in a border town, and made contact with government officials in order to hand himself in.
Hersi may have surrendered because he fell out with those loyal to Ahmed Abdi Godane, Al Shabab’s former top leader who was killed in a US air strike earlier this year, the intelligence officer added.
In 2012, the Obama administration offered a total $33m in rewards for information leading to the capture of Hersi and eight other Al Shabab leaders.
The Somali military said Hersi was in charge of intelligence and finances for the extremist group.
Although presented by Somali officials as a senior Al Shabab operative, however, it was unclear if Hersi had still been active within the group in recent months or weeks, or if he was among a group of commanders who had already fallen out with Godane prior to his death.
Despite suffering major setbacks such as losing major cities, Al Shabab remains a threat in Somalia and the wider East African region. The group has carried out many terror attacks in Somalia and some in neighbouring countries including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak UN-backed government.
On December 25, Al Shabab launched an attack at the African Union base in the capital Mogadishu. Nine people died in the attack on the complex which also houses UN offices and western embassies. The death toll included three African Union soldiers.
Al Shabab said the attack was aimed at a Christmas party and was in retaliation for the killing of the group’s leader Godane.
It also claimed that 14 soldiers were killed in the attack but the group often exaggerates the number of people it kills.
Al Shabab is waging an Islamist insurgency against Somalia’s government, which is attempting to rebuild the country after decades of conflict sparked off by the 1991 ouster of dictator Siad Barre.
* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Published: December 27, 2014 04:00 AM