Toronto Star

Extremist leader gives himself up in Somalia

Wanted Al Shabab fighter’s relations with other militants may have soured, officials say


NAIROBI, KENYA— A leader with the Islamic extremist group Al Shabab, who had a $3-million bounty on his head, 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 may have surrendere­d because he fell out with those loyal to Ahmed Abdi Godane, Al Shabab’s top leader who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this year, the officer said.

Hersi was one of eight top Al Shabab officials whom the Obama administra­tion offered a total $33 million in rewards for informatio­n leading to their capture in 2012. Despite suffering major losses, such as losing major cities, 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 neighbouri­ng countries, including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak UN-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 also claimed 14 soldiers were killed, but the group often exaggerate­s the number of people it kills.

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