US offers $10m for information on al-Shabab leaders, finances

US seeks information leading to disruption of Somalia-based group’s finances as it intensifies attacks.

The US says al-Shabab is responsible for attacks that have killed thousands of people, including Americans [File: Feisal Omar/Reuters]

The United States is offering up to $10m for information that will help disrupt the finances of al-Shabab as the al-Qaeda-aligned group steps up attacks on government forces and civilians in Somalia.

The Department of State also announced on Monday that it was increasing the reward for information on top al-Shabab leaders to $10m through its Rewards for Justice programme.

“Al-Shabaab is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Somalia, Kenya, and neighboring countries that have killed thousands of people, including US citizens,” the department said in a statement.

Washington is seeking information on al-Shabab’s “emir”, Ahmed Diriye; his second-in-command, Mahad Karate; and Jehad Mostafa, an American citizen whom the State Department described as a leader of the group’s foreign fighters and media wing and the “highest-ranking terrorist with US citizenship fighting overseas”.

The State Department linked Diriye to a 2020 attack on a military base in Kenya that killed one US soldier and two contractors. The Rewards for Justice programme previously offered up to $6m for information on Diriye, who is also known as Abu Ubaidah.

Al-Shabab has intensified its attacks in Somalia as it has fought with government forces in recent weeks.

The group’s fighters were driven out of the capital, Mogadishu, by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011, but they still control parts of Somalia’s countryside.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office in May, had pledged an “all-out war” against the group, and government troops and allied militias made some battlefield gains against al-Shabab in the past three months, recapturing territory long held by its fighters.

In response, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for twin car bombings that killed at least 100 people at the education ministry in Mogadishu on October 29, the deadliest blasts in the country in five years.

This month, a suicide bombing claimed by the group also killed at least five people and wounded 11 near a military training camp in Mogadishu.

The US military said last week that it killed 17 al-Shabab fighters in an attack requested by the Somali government.

“Somalia remains key to the stability and security in all of East Africa,” the US military said in a statement at that time. “US Africa Command’s forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to defeat al-Shabab.”

On Monday, the State Department said it was seeking information to disrupt the group’s revenue streams, including from “local natural resources, financial contributions by donors, … international activity by front companies tied to al-Shabaab, [and] criminal schemes involving its members and supporters”.

Drought-stricken Somalia has been struggling with food shortages. The United Nations has warned that the country is facing its worst famine in half a century.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies