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US offers millions in bounty for top members of Al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia

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March 5, 2012: Members of Somalia's al- Shabab militant group patrol on foot on the outskirts of Mogadishu. (AP)

The Obama administration will offer up to $33 million in rewards for information about top members of an Islamist extremist group in Somalia linked to Al Qaeda, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The rewards for seven leaders of the al-Shabab militia movement will be announced Thursday by the State Department, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

The bounties will be administered by the department's Rewards for Justice program. It will be first time the program has offered rewards for members of al-Shabab, which is accused of terrorist attacks in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya.

The program will offer up to $7 million for al-Shabab's founder, Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed; up to $5 million each for his associates, Ibrahim Haji Jama, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud and Mukhtar Robow; and up to $3 million for Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi and Abdullahi Yare, according to the officials.

Al-Shabab and Al Qaeda formally joined organizations earlier this year, though the ties between the groups already were strong. Al-Shabab counts hundreds of foreign fighters among its ranks, including fighters with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In April, the U.S. government warned that it continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western and Kenyan targets inside Kenya.