U.S. offers reward of up to $5 million for Congo’s IS leader

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — The United States is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information that could lead to the capture of Congo’s top jihadi, who leads an affiliate of the Islamic State group.

The Rewards for Justice program, which is run by the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, is seeking information about Seka Musa Baluku, the U.S. Embassy in Congo said. Baluku’s group has engaged in brutal violence against Congolese citizens and regional military forces in eastern Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the embassy said.

Two years ago the United States designated Baluku as a global terrorist and his group, Daesh-DRC, as a foreign terrorist organization, blocking assets and property interests, the embassy said in a statement issued Thursday.

More than 120 armed groups fight for power, influence and resources in eastern Congo, some to protect their communities. The Islamic State group Baluku leads, which is also known as the Allied Democratic Forces, was largely active in North Kivu province but has extended its operations into neighboring Ituri and to the regional capital, Goma.

According to the U.S. Embassy, the group continues to target, kill, maim, rape and abduct civilians, including children. Removing Baluku is key to ongoing counterterrorism efforts in the area, analysts say.

“International and national actors are clearly seeking any possible help that could lead to the arrest of a man responsible for multiple tragedies, not only against security forces, but also against civilians,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank.

Since its inception in 1984, the Rewards for Justice program has disbursed more than $250 million to more than 125 individuals who provided actionable information that helped reduce threats to U.S. national security.

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