ABUJA, Nigeria — The United States offered to pay a reward of as much as $7 million for information leading to the arrest of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamist group.
Shekau is among five alleged Islamist militants active in northern and western Africa for whom the United States is offering a total of $23 million for information leading to their capture, according to notices posted on the website of the Rewards for Justice program of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
“Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram’s operational capabilities have grown,” according to the bounty announcement. “There are reported communications, training, and weapons links between Boko Haram, al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.”
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language, has killed thousands in gun and bomb attacks across Nigeria’s north and Abuja, the capital, since 2009.
The group says it wants Islamic rule in Africa’s top oil producer and most-populous country, which is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.
Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for a suicide car-bomb attack on a U.N. compound in Abuja in August 2011 which killed at least 25 people.
The United States named Shekau a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in June 2012.
President Goodluck Jonathan imposed emergency rule in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa on May 14 to step up the fight against Islamist militants, whom he said were taking over parts of Borno.
Nigeria’s military then began an air and ground offensive against Boko Haram destroying their camps and chasing their members and leaders in the area that borders Chad and Niger, according to the military.
The Rewards for Justice program has paid out more than $125 million to more than 80 people since its inception in 1984 for information resulting in the arrest or conviction of persons suspected of terrorist acts against U.S. citizens or property, according to its website.
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