WASHINGTON - The US State Department offered rewards on Monday of $3 million to $7 million for information leading to the location of "leaders of terrorist organizations" in West Africa, the first time it has used the rewards program in the region.
The action targets leaders of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJWA, and the groups known as the Signed-in-Blood Battalion and Boko Haram.
US Secretary of State John Kerry authorized a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to the location of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, based in Nigeria.
The State Department blamed the group for the August 2011 vehicle-bomb attack on a UN facility in Abuja, Nigeria, which killed at least 23 people and wounded 80.
"For the first time, the US Department of State's Rewards for Justice program is offering rewards for information on key leaders of terrorist organizations in West Africa," it said in a statement.
Kerry set rewards of $5 million each for information leading to the location of AQIM leader Yahya Abu el Hammam and Signed-in-Blood Battalion leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.