- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
On Wednesday, the State Department posted a multimillion-dollar bounty on the heads of two Americans suspected of joining al-Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia. The two men, Alabama native Omar Shafik Hammami and California native Jehad Serwan Mostafa, are accused of making “significant contributions to this terrorist organization’s media and military activities” and are “believed to be involved in planning attacks on U.S. persons or property.” The trick now is targeting the communities most likely to come into contact with the two men.
Today, a State Department official with knowledge of the Rewards for Justice program gave Foreign Policy a sneak peek into the global effort to capture Mostafa and Hammami. The first step is a full-on media blitz with posters and leaflets detailing the $5 million reward for information “leading to the arrest or conviction” of Hammami or Mostafa. The materials were translated into French, Arabic, and Somali:
According to the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is just getting off the ground, these materials will be shared with newspapers and TV stations in a big push in the coming weeks. The goal of the U.S. media outreach is to target America’s “large and significant” Somali expatriate communities, the official said.
The next step involves localized targeting of the two men, both of whom are believed to be in Somalia. Hammami left in 2006 for the African country, where he allegedly trained with Islamic militants and served as a rapping, English-speaking propagandist for al-Shabab. Mostafa left in 2005 for Somalia, where he allegedly leads foreign fighters for al-Shabab and serves as a “media expert.”
The official told FP that the State Department is contemplating a “whole bunch of possibilities,” including radio ads, matchbooks, and social media campaigns conducted throughout Somalia and Kenya. “In some countries, people use portable digital devices more than they use PCs,” said the official. “It has to be decided on the ground in the region.” Below is the State Department’s matchbox bounty materials, including poster translations in French, Arabic, and Somali: