A top leader of Somalia's Islamist al-Shabab terror group has given himself up. The move is likely the result of internal splintering within the group.
A senior member of al-Shabab, the al Qaeda-linked terror group based in Somalia, surrendered to Somali police in the southwestern Gedo region on Saturday. Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi had a $3-million (2.45 million euro) bounty on his head as part of the US State Department's Rewards for Justice program.
"He was in charge of intelligence and finances. He was one of the senior al-Shabab commanders," said regional military official Jama Muse, according to news agency AFP.
Hersi likely surrendered after falling out with militants loyal to al-Shabab's late leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in a US airstrike earlier this year. There have been several bloody splits and purges within the group recently, with Godane brutally eliminating his rivals and his successor, Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah, fighting to maintain strict internal cohesion.
Although presented by the Somali military as an important al-Shabab agent, it is not clear whether Hersi was still active in the terrorist organization in the past few months. He could be among a group of commanders who fell out with Godane before his death.
Despite recently suffering major losses, al-Shabab remains a significant security threat in eastern Africa. On Christmas Day they launched an attack at the African Union base in Mogadishu, killing nine.
Al-Shabab claimed that the attack on the compound, which also houses UN offices and Western embassies, was revenge for the killing of Godane.
es/sb (AP, AFP)