Late last month, senior al-Shabaab leader, Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, surrendered to Somali officials, marking the first significant defection by core al-Shabaab in response to amnesty offers the Somali government has made toward the Islamic insurgency. While analysts continue to debate what, if any, effect Hersi’s defection will have on al-Shabaab’s operations, the surrender could serve as yet another critical blow to the still lethal but increasingly marginalized al Qaeda affiliate.
01/03/2014 Somalia (allAfrica) – The defection of former al-Shabaab intelligence chief Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi has sparked debate on the Somali government’s amnesty offer and the benefits of pardoning al-Shabaab officials who seek to leave the group.
Hersi, who surrendered to Somali troops stationed in Gedo region on December 27th, was wanted by the US government for a $3 million bounty. He defected from al-Shabaab with a few of his men days before the amnesty extended by Somali President Hassan Shaikh Mohamud was set to expire.
“I can confirm that a few days ago Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi came under the custody of the [federal] government and is now being held by security agencies in Mogadishu,” government spokesperson Ridwan Haji Abdiweli told Sabahi on Friday (January 2nd).
Abdiweli said he was not aware whether the president’s amnesty offer would continue into the new year, but said an announcement on the matter would be made at a later time.
Hersi’s surrender offers an opportunity for the Somali government to increase access to the inner workings of the militant group and to engage others who would like to defect, security analysts say.