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article imageUS posts $7 million bounty on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 4, 2013 in World
Maiduguri - The US government has posted a bounty of $7 million on Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram. The reward will go to anyone who can provide information leading to his arrest.
The bounty offer comes soon after Shekau released a video in which he called to jihadists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to join the fight to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.
According to This Day Live, the sum is part of a total of $23 million the US government has posted for information leading to the arrest of five leaders of the major Islamic militant groups in West Africa and the Maghreb.
A bounty of $5 million was posted for the Al Qaeda operative Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed militant believed to have been involved in the attack on an Algerian gas plant in January. Thirty-seven foreigners, including three Americans, were killed in the attack.
It is also believed that Belmokhtar was involved in the recent car bombings in Niger in which about 26 soldiers were killed, according to Digital Journal.
A bounty of $3 million was offered for Oumar Ould Hamaha, the spokesman of Mali's Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Malik Abou Abdelkarim, a senior AQIM militant.
Five million dollars was also offered for AQIM leader Yahya Abou Al-Hammam, accused of involvement in the 2010 murder of a French hostage in Niger.
The Western powers have shown concern about the growing influence of Al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups in the Maghreb and West African region. France, former colonial power in the region, led a military offensive against Islamic militants in Mali who overran the northern parts of the country after an army mutiny in the country's capital city of Bamako.
AFP reports that a senior US State Department official acknowledged the links between AQIM and Boko Haram. The official said on Monday: "They've had a relationship for some time. They send people back and forth for training, they've done the provision of arms back and forth. The links are... not quite as solid as some of the other terrorist organisations. Nonetheless, it’s a dangerous link and it’s something that we feel we should try and stop."
The senior State Department official, explaining the decision to post bounties for the militants, said: "AQIM has been increasingly active in north and West Africa. They're one of the pre-eminent kidnap-for-ransom groups in the terrorist world right now. They cause us a great deal of concern. Anything that 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."
Digital Journal reported that Shekau, who, according to AllAfrica.com, once said he enjoys "killing anyone that God commands me to kill," released a video in which he claimed that Boko Haram was winning the war against the Nigerian military in their recent offensive. He said Nigerian soldiers were fleeing before his men "like rabbits" and called on his "brothers" in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to come to the group's assistance.
He took over control of the group after Nigerian security forces summarily executed Muhammad Yusuf, former leader of the group, during a major crackdown in 2009. At first, Shekau was thought to have been killed in the crackdown, but he appeared on video about a year later proclaiming himself the new leader of the group.
Shekau reportedly escaped execution narrowly during the crackdown. An intelligence officer reportedly intervened on his behalf.
The US official, recalling the bomb attack on a UN building in Abuja in 2011, acknowledged that Boko Haram's capability has grown significantly under Shekau.
According to AllAfrica.com, Shekau, who is fluent in Hausa, Kanuri and Arabic has not been seen in public since he took over control of Boko Haram in 2009. He is said to have met Yusuf through a mutual friend Maman Nur, who allegedly organized the 2011 bombing of the UN facility in Abuja.
According to sources close to the group, Yusuf, Nur and Shekau are Koranic students with Shekau being the most radical of the three. A journalist, Ahmed Salkida, who has had contact with the group, said: "He (Shekau) hardly talks, [but] he is fearless."
Salkida said: "He is one of those who believe that you can sacrifice anything for your belief. I used to joke with him that he should teach me Arabic and I would teach him English."
The Nigerian government has welcomed the move by the US to post a bounty for Shekau. A spokesman of the Nigerian president Dr. Reuben Abati, described the US decision as a "positive development."
The Punch reports he said: "We welcome any effort by the international community to support Nigeria’s effort at waging war against terrorism and its perpetrators. What this proves is that terrorism is a global phenomenon that requires global effort at combating it. Nigeria believes that the international community needs to come together to combat terrorism."
Although, the US has not designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization, it placed Shekau on its blacklist last year, after a group of US lawmakers moved to have the US State Department designate Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization.
According AllAfrica.com, this is not the first time that a bounty has been posted for Abubakar Shekau. In November 2012, the Nigerian Joint Task Force (JTF) posted a bounty of N50 million and N25 million each for other Boko Haram commanders, including Habibu Yusuf (a.k.a Asalafi), Khaho Albarnawai, Momodu Bama and Moyamme Zangina, while N10 million was posted for 14 other commanders, including Abu Saad, Abu Kaka, Aboulamakka Bama and Umar Fuyata.
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