U.S. offers $5 million reward for Shabaab’s deputy emir

The U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Abukar Ali Adan, the deputy leader of Shabaab, Al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa.

Adan is a dangerous Shabaab leader who has headed the group’s military wing and has ties to other Al Qaeda branches in African and on the Arabian Peninsula.

In his capacity as Shabaab’s deputy emir, Adan still oversees Shabaab’s military operations on behalf of Shabaab’s overall emir, Abu Ubaidah. Adan works alongside Shabaab’s military emir, Yassir Jiis, to coordinate the group’s operations.

Adan was listed by the U.S. State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on Jan. 4, 2018, but other than identifying him as Shabaab’s deputy emir, little information was provided.

The Rewards For Justice program added one additional detail on Adan. It noted that Adan “is associated with Al Qaeda affiliates Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”

Adan’s links to AQAP and AQIM are unsurprising as top officials in Al Qaeda branches are often directly tied into Al Qaeda’s global networks. For instance, Adan’s boss, Ahmed Diriye, is said to be in the line of succession for Al Qaeda’s overall emir, along with Yazid Mebrak, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. [See LWJ report, Ayman al Zawahiri is alive; Taliban and Al Qaeda “remain close,” UN reports.]

In 2018, FDD’s Long War Journal tracked Adan’s rise in Shabaab’s leadership cadre. A 2010 Reuters report identified Adan as Shabaab’s “chairman” along the border with Kenya. Adan was also reported to be the leader of the southern port city of Kismayo, which at the time was under Shabaab’s control.

In 2012, BBC Monitoring report identified Adan as Shabaab’s emir of the Lower and Middle Juba regions, the two southernmost provinces in Somalia that serve as a stronghold for the terror group. In this role, he reported directly to Shabaab’s overall emir.

In 2014, Adan entered Shabaab’s top leadership tier. The International Crisis Group also previously identified Adan in 2014 as Shabaab’s overall military leader, a role which likely made him also serve as the group’s deputy emir.

Numerous Shabaab leaders have been listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, and many of those leaders have rewards issued for their capture and prosecution. The U.S. State Department offers a $10 million bounty on five Shabaab leaders, far more than any other Sunni terrorist group. 

Shabaab was first listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2008 for plotting attacks in the region. The U.S. military routinely targets its leaders and fighters in airstrikes in an effort to tamp down Shabaab’s deadly insurgency.

U.S. Africa Command, which directs the strikes against Shabaab, described the groups as “the largest and most kinetically active al Qaeda network in the world” that “has proved both its will and capability to attack partner and U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests.”

[For more information on Shabaab’s leadership and hierarchy, see: Detailing Shabaab’s Leadership and Key Personnel.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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