The United States has announced that it will pay millions of dollars in rewards in exchange for information leading to the capture of top leaders of the Somali militant group Al Shabaab.
Under its Rewards for Justice program, the US has put a price of $7 million on the founder and commander of the group, Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamud Godane, while cash will also be paid out of a total fund of $30 million for six other top Al Shabaab members, including co-founder Ibrahim Haji Jama and financier Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, according to the BBC.
Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda cemented their already-strong ties in February when they announced that they were formally merging. According to The Daily Telegraph, hundreds of foreign fighters – some of whom have battled international forces in Iraq and Afghanistan – have travelled to Somalia to swell Al Shabaab’s ranks.
Washington claims to be in continual receipt of information regarding potential terrorist strikes on western targets inside neighboring Kenya.
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While Al Shabaab still controls vast swathes of territory in southern and central Somalia, it has come under increasing pressure from Ethiopian forces, militias aligned with Somalia’s government in Mogadishu, and US- and European-backed African Union troops, who in recent months have seized several key strategic towns and bases from the insurgents.
Announcing the move to place a bounty on top Al Shabaab members, Robert Hartung, an assistant director at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which administers the Rewards for Justice program, told Reuters: “This is the first time we've had key leaders of Al Shabaab as part of the Rewards for Justice program. Every time we add someone to the Rewards for Justice site, that is a signal that the U.S. government is sending that it takes the fight against terrorism very seriously."
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