The Obama administration will offer up to $33 million in rewards for information about top members of an Islamist extremist group in Somalia linked to al-Qaida, US officials said on Wednesday.
Hard-line Islamist Al Shabab fighters conduct military exercise in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia
The rewards for seven leaders of the al-Shabab militia movement will be announced on Thursday by the State Department, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
The bounties will be administered by the department's Rewards for Justice program. It will be first time the programme has offered rewards for members of al-Shabab, which is accused of terrorist attacks in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya.
The programme will offer up to $7 million for al-Shabab's founder, Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed; up to $5 million each for his associates, Ibrahim Haji Jama, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud and Mukhtar Robow; and up to $3 million for Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi and Abdullahi Yare, according to the officials.
Al-Shabab and al-Qaeda formally joined organisations earlier this year, though the ties between the groups already were strong. Al-Shabab counts hundreds of foreign fighters among its ranks, including fighters with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In April, the US government warned that it continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at US, Western and Kenyan targets inside Kenya.