US offers $5m reward for information on three ISIS deputies

The three join a long list of targets for whom the US is offering bounties

FILE PHOTO - A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Syria June 29, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The US State Department is offering $5 million per head for information leading to the capture of three prominent ISIS deputies.

The Dh11.7m bounty, part of the US Rewards for Justice programme compensating sources for information, was announced on Wednesday and applies to ISIS leaders Amir Muhammad Said Abdal-Rahman Al Mawla, Sami Jasim Muhammad Al Jaburi, and Mu‘taz Numan ‘Abd Nayif Najm Al Jaburi.

Al Mawla, also known as Hajji Abdullah, is listed by the State Department as a religious scholar who was formerly a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq. He has risen through the ranks to become a potential successor to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

Both the Al Jaburis hold important positions within ISIS, the US said.

“As ISIS is defeated on the battlefield, we are determined to identify and find the group’s leaders so that the global coalition of nations fighting to defeat ISIS can continue to destroy ISIS remnants and thwart its global ambitions," a statement on the Rewards For Justice website read.

The offer of cash for tips on the whereabouts of extremists is not uncommon, but the timing of this latest announcement shows ISIS is still a priority for the US government, according to Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "has been talking a bit about the dangers of a resurgence of ISIS, which shows the US is still attuned to and aware of this problem," he said. "The decision to offer cash incentives is a way to stimulate a reaction.”

The State Department says it has awarded over $150 million to more than 100 people who provided actionable information that helped bring terrorists to justice or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide since 1984. However, the world is unlikely to hear if cash is handed out to those to turn in the any of the three ISIS leaders, says Mr Pantucci.

"If it is claimed it's often not reported. If you're the guy who handed Osama Bin Laden in, you're not really going to broadcast that to the world, you're going to go into hiding and the government is going to help you do that,” he said, adding that the US government is not likely to publicise any new sources who could still hold information.

Even if the bounty doesn’t bring in actionable information, it can serve to curb the activities of the wanted people, especially as ISIS no longer controls any territory.

“Let's say they were hiding in some Syrian or Iraqi city; they need to think carefully about that because everyone they come into contact with could potentially know there is a $5m bounty on their head,” said Mr Pantucci.

The rewards are by no means the highest on offer by the Rewards for Justice programme. The US is offering up to $25m for information on both ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri.