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The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program, which is administered by the Diplomatic Security Service, is increasing its reward offers to up to $10 million each for information leading to the identification or location of al-Shabaab key leaders Ahmed Diriye, Mahad Karate, and Jehad Mostafa.
RFJ is also offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of al-Shabaab. This announcement marks the first time that the Department has offered a reward for information on al-Shabaab’s fundraising and financial facilitation networks.
Al-Shabaab is al-Qa’ida’s principal affiliate in East Africa. Al-Shabaab is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Somalia, Kenya, and neighboring countries that have killed thousands of people, including U.S. citizens. The Department of State designated al-Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in March 2008. In April 2010, Al-Shabaab was also designated by the UNSC’s Somalia Sanctions Committee pursuant to paragraph 8 of resolution 1844 (2008).
Ahmed Diriye, al-Shabaab’s emir since September 2014, was designated by the Department as an SDGT on April 21, 2015, and by the UNSC’s Somalia Sanctions Committee on September 24, 2014. He was seen in a video meeting with al-Shabaab fighters prior to the January 2020 attack on Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed one U.S. Army soldier and two U.S. contract personnel and wounded three additional U.S. personnel and one Kenyan soldier.
Mahad Karate was designated by the Department as an SDGT on April 21, 2015, and by the UNSC’s Somalia Sanctions Committee on February 26, 2021. Karate is al-Shabaab’s second or shadow deputy emir and continues to lead some al-Shabaab operations. Karate maintains some command responsibility over Amniyat, al-Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, which oversees suicide attacks and assassinations in Somalia, Kenya, and other countries in the region, and provides logistics and support for al-Shabaab’s terrorist activities.
Jehad Mostafa is a U.S. citizen and former resident of California. Mostafa has served as a military instructor at al-Shabaab training camps, a leader of foreign fighters, a leader in al-Shabaab’s media wing, an intermediary between al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations, and a leader in al-Shabaab’s use of explosives in terrorist attacks. In December 2019, he was indicted in federal court on charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab, and providing material support to al-Shabaab. The FBI assesses Mostafa to be the highest-ranking terrorist with U.S. citizenship fighting overseas.
Al-Shabaab continues to rely on a range of fundraising and financial facilitation networks to sustain their operations and plan terrorist attacks globally. The Department of State is offering rewards for information leading to the identification and disruption of significant sources of revenue for al-Shabaab, including its exploitation of local natural resources, such as charcoal; extortion of civilians; financial contributions by donors and financial facilitators; financial transactions and funds held by cash couriers, financial institutions, virtual asset service providers, hawalas, and exchange houses; any businesses or investments owned or controlled by al-Shabaab or its facilitators; local and international front companies tied to al-Shabaab; other criminal schemes involving its members and supporters, such as money laundering, kidnapping-for-ransom operations, looting, and transfers of funding and materiel by al-Shabaab to its terrorist and militia proxies and partners, including criminal syndicates (e.g. weapons traffickers and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing networks).