Islamist with $3 million U.S. bounty surrenders to Somali authorities

A file photo taken on March 5, 2012 shows Al-Qaeda linked al-Shebab recruits walking down a street in Mogadishu. A top leader of al-Shebab rebels has surrendered to government and African Union forces and is now in custody, officials said

A file photo taken on March 5, 2012 shows Al-Qaeda linked al-Shebab recruits walking down a street in Mogadishu. A top leader of al-Shebab rebels has surrendered to government and African Union forces and is now in custody, officials said

A leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, who the United States offered $3 million for his capture, surrendered in Somalia, a Somali intelligence official said Saturday.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi surrendered to Somali police in the Gedo region, said the intelligence officer, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

Hersi’s surrender would be the second major blow to al Shabaab’s leadership in just a few months. In September the group’s main leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed by a U.S. drone strike. Hersi may have surrendered because he fell out with those loyal to Godane, the intelligence officer said.

State radio Web site Radio Muqdisho described Hersi as “the general secretary of al-Shabaab’s finance (department).” It did not give reasons for his surrender. But a senior member of al-Shabab’s media team told Reuters that Hersi left the Islamist group two years ago. “(Hersi) cannot have impact on al-Shabaab because he is not a member,” the al-Shabab member said.

Hersi was one of seven top al-Shabab officials whom the Obama administration offered a total $33 million in rewards for information leading to their capture in 2012. It is not clear whether the reward will be paid out for Hersi because he surrendered.

Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many terror attacks in Somalia and some in neighboring countries including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak U.N.- backed government.

On Christmas Day, al-Shabab launched an attack at the African Union base in Mogadishu. Nine people died, including three African Union soldiers, in the attack on the complex, which also houses U.N. offices and Western embassies. Al-Shabab said the attack was aimed at a Christmas party and was in retaliation for the killing of the group’s leader Godane.

Al-Shabab is waging an Islamic insurgency against Somalia’s government that is attempting to rebuild the country after decades of conflict. Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu during 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by African Union forces.

The United States and the United Nations warn that political infighting in Somalia is putting the security gains at risk. The federal government remains weak and wields little power outside the capital Mogadishu.