US offers $23m bounty for Islamists in Africa

 

Betraying new anxiety about the threat of Islamic militant groups in West Africa, Washington is for the first time offering rewards totalling $23m (£15m) for information leading to the capture of their top leaders in the region including Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, based in Nigeria.

While the US Rewards for Justice programme has been tapped to put bounties on top targets, mostly associated with al-Qa’ida, in other regions, it is the first time it has been deployed in Africa. Posters of the men advertising the rewards will be distributed in parts of Mali, Niger and Nigeria, officials said.

The highest single reward of $7 million is offered for Mr Shekau, who has been behind the insurgency in northeast Nigeria that has claimed the lives of about 4,000 people since 2009. Boko Haram is also thought to have ties with Al-Qa’ida’s North African arm known as al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM.

Authorised by Secretary of State, John Kerry, the initiative also puts a $5 million bounty on  Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed Algerian terrorist nicknamed ‘The Uncatchable’ and leader of the group that carried out January’s raid on a gas plant in Algeria that led to the deaths of at least 37 hostages, including 5 Britons.  He also claimed partial responsibility for an attack on an army base and uranium mine owned by a French company in Niger last month.

The spreading of al-Qa’ida roots in the region is causing particular alarm in western capitals. The capture by al-Qa’ida-associated insurgents of northern Mali in 2012 led to a military intervention by the French military. Rewards of $5m have also been offered for Yahya Abu el Hammam, an Algerian leader of AQIM, and of $3 million each for two Malians: Malik Abou Abdelkarim, an AQIM commander, and Ouma Ould Hamaha, the spokesman for MUJAO, whose fighters were implicated in attacks last month in Niger

“AQIM has been increasingly active in north and west Africa,” a State Department official told AFP, the news agency. “They cause us a great deal of concern. Anything we can do naturally to cut down on the capabilities of AQIM, anything that we can do to get information on these people so that we can get them in front of a court. That is our goal.”

A suspected extremist in Mali blew himself up while running for cover in an abandoned house in the city of Kital, new wires reported. Witnesses said the man had been wearing an explosive vest. The incident occurred in a neighbourhood where last week snipers open fire on a French military convoy lightly wounding one soldier.

The State Department announced that it was offering rewards for information leading to the location of the leaders of al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as other terrorist organizations operating in North and West Africa. The rewards, the first for the region, include $5 million each for the leader of the Qa'ida regional franchise, Yahya Abu el-Hamman, and for Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of a group that carried out a raid on a gas plant in Algeria that led to the deaths of at least 37 hostages, including 3 Americans. The department offered up to $7 million for information on Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, an Islamist group in Nigeria

four Islamist militant groups in west Africa, in a sign of growing international concern about terrorist activity in the region.

The move targets Nigeria’s Boko Haram and three groups operating further north in the Sahel: Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in west Africa (MUJAO) and the Signed-in-Blood Battalion. It is the first time the US Rewards for Justice programme has been used in west Africa.

he capture of northern Mali by al-Qa'ida linked Islamist groups in 2012 raised the alarm about the mounting terror threat in the region, and led to French intervention in January. Though the militants were dispersed from their Malian bases, most of their leaders escaped and have continued to mount attacks on western targets in Algeria and Niger.

The biggest reward, of up to $7m, was offered for information leading to the location of Abubakar Shekau, the head of Boko Haram. The group is behind an insurgency in northeast Nigeria that has claimed nearly 4,000 lives since 2009. Its agenda has a domestic focus but it bombed a UN office in the capital Abuja in August 2011 and has reported links with groups such as AQIM.

John Kerry, US secretary of state, also authorised a reward of $5m for information on the location of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed Algerian terrorist nicknamed “The Uncatchable”. His group, the Signed-in Blood-Battalion, carried out for the siege at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria in January in which 37 hostages were killed, including three American citizens. He also claimed partial responsibility for the twin attack in May in Niger on an army base and uranium mine owned by French nuclear company Areva.

he US offered $5m for information leading to the location of Yahya Abu el Hammam, an Algerian leader of AQIM, which has carried out terrorist attacks in Mauritania and Algeria and kidnapped numerous western hostages for ransom. Rewards of up to $3m were announced for two Malians: Malik Abou Abdelkarim, an AQIM commander, and Ouma Ould Hamaha, the spokesman for MUJAO, whose fighters were also involved in last month’s attacks in Niger.

A man suspected of being an extremist ran for cover inside an abandoned house in the northern Malian city of Kidal, and detonated an explosive vest inside the structure, killing only himself.

Resident Ali Cisse said the explosion occurred around 11 a.m. in the Aliou neighborhood of Kidal, the same district where last week an unidentified gunman opened fire on a French convoy, lightly wounding a French soldier. Cisse said the man ran into a house not far from the residence of Iyad Ag Ghali, leader of Ansar Dine, a local jihadist group working with al-Qaida's North African chapter. Ansar Dine was chased out of northern Mali by French forces in January.

Cisse said the bomber couldn't be identified because his body was torn to bits by the explosion.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas