U.S. State Department reward money used to capture Al-Shabaab militant
Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi was close to former leader killed in a U.S. airstrike
Al-Shabaab attacked an African Union base on Thursday near Mogadishu
Somali government forces on Saturday captured a top commander of the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, two of the country’s military officials said.
Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, Al-Shabaab’s intelligence chief, was captured in a house near the town of El Wak, Somali military commander Isack Hussein Mursal told state-run radio.
He was a close associate of former Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike near Barawe city in September.
Somali forces captured Hersi and his driver without confrontation, officials said. The U.S. State Department had issued a $3 million reward for information leading to his capture.
“Zakariya has told us following his capture that he left Al-Shabaab a year and half ago and since then was looking for to surrender to the Somali government,” Col. Abas Ibrahim Gurey, a senior military official, told CNN.
The capture comes after militants with the group, which is linked to al Qaeda, attacked a large African Union base in Mogadishu on Thursday, killing three Ugandan soldiers and a civilian.
Al-Shabaab has said that attack was revenge for the U.S. airstrike that killed Godane. The State Department had offered a $7 million reward for information on Godane’s location.
CNN’s Pierre Meilhan, Margot Haddad and Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this story