To further express it determination to get rid of insurgency in the West African region, the U.S. State Department, through its Rewards for Justice program, has for the first time ever, offered rewards for information on key leaders of terrorist organisations in West Africa.
The bounty is placed on leaders of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA);Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah il-Da’awati wal-Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram.
A statement by the office on Monday stated that the Secretary of State has authorized rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the location of AQIM leader Yahya Abu el Hammam and Battalion leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar; rewards of up to $3 million each for information leading to the location of AQIM leader Malik Abou Abdelkarim and MUJWA spokesperson Oumar Ould Hamaha.
The highest reward of $7 million is for information leading to the location of Abubakar Shekau, theleader of Boko Haram.
Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram group is responsible for the August 2011 vehicle-bomb attack on a United Nations facility in Abuja, Nigeria, which killed at least 23 people and injured 80.
It has planned and executed more deadly attacks, especially in North-east Nigeria, in its over four years of operations.
Human rights body believes the group has killed at least 3,000 people.
Yahya Abu el Hammam serves as a senior leader of AQIM, planning attacks and kidnappings in North and West Africa. He reportedly was involved in the 2010 murder of an elderly French hostage in Niger.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, previously a leader of AQIM, is the founder of the al-Mulathamun Battalion. It conducted the deadly January 2013 attack on a gas facility in In-Amenas, Algeria, where at least 37 hostages, including three U.S. citizens, were killed.
Malik Abou Abdelkarim is a senior leader within AQIM. Under his command, AQIM fighters have conducted kidnappings and terrorist attacks in North and West Africa.
Oumar Ould Hamaha, previously a member of AQIM, is now the spokesperson for MUJWA, an AQIM offshoot. As a member of AQIM, Hamaha participated in kidnapping of foreigners for ransom, including the kidnapping of a Canadian diplomat from Niamey, Niger, in December 2008.
The Rewards for Justice program is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Since its inception in 1984, the program has paid more than $125 million to more than 80 people who provided reliable information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.