Islamic Extremist Leader Captured in Somalia – Wall Street Journal

Hundreds of newly trained al-Shabaab fighters perform military exercises in Somalia in 2011. A Somali intelligence official on Saturday said Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, a leader with the Islamic extremist group, has been captured by Somali defense forces.
ENLARGE

MOGADISHU, Somalia–The intelligence chief of the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab, wanted for a $3 million reward by the U.S. State Department, was apprehended by Somali defense forces Saturday, a senior official said.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed

Hersi is thought to have been key to a number of deadly attacks carried out by the al Qaeda linked group, including masterminding a double bomb attack in Kampala, Uganda, in July 2010 during soccer-game screenings that left more than 70 people dead, including one U.S. citizen.

His arrest could further weaken the terrorist organization which has scrambled to regroup following the killing of its leader,

Ahmed Abdi Godane,

in a U.S. airstrike Sept.1. al-Shabaab has carried out dozens of lethal attacks in recent years, both in and outside Somalia.

The group was responsible for the attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi in September 2013, in which more than 60 people, Kenyans and foreigners, were killed, as well as a spate of attacks across Kenya throughout the past year. Inside Somalia, military forces from neighboring countries have been trying to reclaim territory from al-Shabaab.

Mr. Hersi

was taken into custody after an operation following a tip-off, in the town of Elwak, near the Kenyan-Somali border, along with an aide, Colonel Abbas Nur Gurey of the Somali defense forces said.

Mr. Nur Gurey said the two men had been hiding in a hut there since October and didn’t resist arrest and no bullets were fired.

The arrested al-Shabaab senior figure claimed that he left the group 18 months ago, Mr. Nur Gurey said.

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