[File] Photo taken on September 22, 2012 shows members of  Al-Shabaab giving themselves up to AU peacekeepers in Somalia.
[File] Photo taken on September 22, 2012 shows members of Al-Shabaab giving themselves up to AU peacekeepers in Somalia.
PHOTO: File/Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/GettyImages

Story highlights

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

(CNN) —  

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