The US State department has added seven senior leaders of Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, to the Rewards for Justice list.
The rewards, which were first reported by Reuters, range from $7 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Shabaab’s emir, to $3 million for other senior figures in the terror group.
The top reward, at $7 million, is offered for Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed, Shabaab’s senior leader and co-founder. Mohamed, better known as Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr and Godane, was in direct contact with Osama bin Laden before his death, and brokered Shabaab’s official merger with al Qaeda in February.
Rewards of $5 million are being offered for Sheikh Abu Mukhtar Robow, a senior military commander and propagandist; Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, a military commander and al Qaeda leader; Ibrahim Haji Jama, the co-founder of Shabaab; and Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, a senior financier and military commander.
The US will pay rewards of $3 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Sheikh Hassan “Turki” Abdullahi Hersi (Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi), a military commander and Shabaab’s intelligence chief who is closely tied to al Qaeda; and Abdullahi Yare, a deputy to Zubayr and the head of Shabaab’s media operations.
Zubayr’s reward of $7 million puts him at number six on the Rewards for Justice list of wanted terrorists. Only al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri (at $25 million), and al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Du’a, Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed, and senior al Qaeda leader Yasin al-Suri (all at $10 million) have a higher bounty.
The reward of $5 million for each of Robow, Mahamoud, Khalaf, and Jama matches the rewards offered for a host of other terrorist leaders, including Pakistani Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud, senior al Qaeda leaders Adnan G. el Shukrijumah and Saif al Adel, Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddun Haqqani, and Islamic Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov.
Today’s addition of the seven Shabaab leaders to the Rewards for Justice list is not the first time that the US has targeted the group. Both Godane and Robow were added to the US’ list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists back in November 2008. Also added to the list at that time was Issa Osman Issa, a member of al Qaeda’s East Africa cell that was responsible for the simultaneous attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam in 1998. He served as an al Qaeda recruiter and directed attacks in East Africa. And in 2011, the US added Omar Hammami, an American citizen, to the terrorism list for serving as a Shabaab military commander, recruiter, financier, and propagandist, as well as for his ties to al Qaeda.
Additionally, the State Department added Shabaab itself to the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list in February 2008. State said that Shabaab “has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”
Background on Shabaab leaders added to the Rewards for Justice list
Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed is the emir of Shabaab. He founded the group in 2006 as the militant youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). A native of Somaliland from the Ishaak clan, he is more commonly known as Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr and Godane. He has taken on a more visible role since the death of Shabaab’s chief military commander Aden Hashi Ayro in a May 1, 2008, airstrike. Zubayr was added to the US’ list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in November 2011. He announced the formal merger with al Qaeda in February 2012, and was in direct communication with Osama bin Laden years prior to the merger.
Sheikh Abu Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansur, is the most visible member of Shabaab and serves as both a military commander and a spokesman. He frequently appears in Arabic- and Somali-language propaganda videos posted on the Internet. He has been shown visiting training camps alongside Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the al Qaeda leader who served as a top leader in Shabaab before his death in a US raid in 2009. Robow hails from the Rahanwein clan native to Baidoa in central Somalia. In the 1990s he worked in Mogadishu for the Al Haramein Saudi foundation, which served as a conduit for al Qaeda, and later trained and fought with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Robow frequently connects with hardcore supporters in the Somali Diaspora through weekly Paltalk forums. In September 2008 he told a forum that the establishment of the “Islamic Emirate of Somalia” would be “imminent.”
Sheikh Fuad Mohammed Khalaf: who is also known as Fuad Mohammed Shonghole, is a Swedish citizen who serves as a top financier and has also served as a senior Shabaab field commander in Mogadishu. In a Shabaab propaganda video, Khalaf declared war on Ugandan peacekeepers serving in Mogadishu. Khalaf is also an imam, or prayer leader, for Shabaab.
Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, is, according to the United Nations, a Shabaab “military commander” and “one of approximately ten members on al Shabaab’s leadership council as of late 2008.” The UN notes that Mahamoud and “an associate were in charge of the 10 June 2009 mortar attack against the Somali Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu.” A leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) file notes that a current Gitmo detainee, Abdul Malik Bajabu, has admitted to having “a close relationship” with Mahamoud. The same file describes Mahamoud as an “EAAQ [East Africa al Qaeda] member.” Mahamoud “planned to assassinate the Somali Prime Minister and conduct unspecified suicide attacks,” the JTF-GTMO file adds.
Sheikh Hassan “Turki” Abdullahi Hersi, who is also known as Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, heads the faction of the Ras Kamboni Brigade that merged with Shabaab, which fights along the Somali-Kenyan border. He is closely tied to al Qaeda. Turki, who was a senior leader in the Islamic Courts and its predecessor, al Itihaad al Islamiyah, ran a military training camp on the Kenyan-Somali border. He currently serves as Shabaab’s intelligence chief, a position once held by Fazl Mohammed, a senior al Qaeda leader who also was a leader in Shabaab.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.