MOGADISHU (AA) – The Somali government announced on Sunday that Washington had removed the former Al-Shabaab intelligence chief from its wanted list.
“This follows negotiations between the Somali and the U.S. governments to establish clearly and beyond doubt that Zakariya Ismail Hersi has renounced violence, rejected the terror group al-Shabaab, and has fully embraced the peace process,” presidential spokesman Daud Aweis said in a statement.
According to the statement, the three conditions “have been irrefutably established” and “unequivocally proven” to the people of Somalia through Hersi’s statements to the media.
No confirmation was immediately available from American authorities.
Hersi, who was one of the most wanted persons by the U.S. with a $3 million bounty on his head, surrendered to Somali authorities in December of last year.
The Somalia government said Washington’s decision would encourage more defections from the militant group.
“The Federal Government reiterates its message to those still trapped inside al-Shabaab, whether leader or foot soldier: if you are willing to embrace the path of peace, abandon violence as a means of conflict resolution, and turn your back on the extremist doctrine of al-Shabaab then there you will welcomed to rejoin Somali society and play your part in rebuilding of the nation,” said the statement.
“The Federal Government confirms it will support defecting leaders or militants in the transition back into Somali society and, where necessary, will advocate upon their behalf, as was the case with Hersi,” it added.
“Reach out by any means and you will find a willing ear and a helping hand,” the presidency promised defecting militants.
Somali authorities announced Saturday that Abdullahi Ahmed Muhumed, a senior Al-Shabaab leader and an Al-Qaeda-trained bomb expert, had surrendered to authorities in Galgaluud region in central Somalia.
Al-Shabaab, which has launched an insurgency against the Somali government in recent years, has recently suffered several significant blows, losing most of its strongholds in southern and central Somalia to government and African Union troops.
Several group members have also recently been killed in U.S. drone strikes.
However, the group has continued to launch deadly attacks on government officials and security troops.
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