SAN DIEGO -- Federal authorities announced a reward of up to $5 million Monday for information leading to the arrest of a former San Diego man believed to be the highest-ranking United States citizen fighting for a terrorist organization overseas.
Jehad Serwan Mostafa, 37, is charged in a superseding indictment with providing support to Somali-based terrorist organization al-Shabaab, described by prosecutors as a "militant Islamic" group responsible for numerous deadly attacks on Somali government and military members in East Africa.
Mostafa is charged with criminal activities dating from 2008 to 2017, though authorities told reporters Monday afternoon that he's believed to still be working in a central role planning al-Shabaab's operations against the government of Somalia.
Federal prosecutors said Mostafa was born in Wisconsin, but grew up in San Diego's Serra Mesa neighborhood and attended high school and college in San Diego.
In 2005, he left the country for Yemen and later Somalia, according to Scott Brunner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's San Diego division.
At some point, Mostafa joined al-Shabaab, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda and claimed responsibility for attacks that involve murder, kidnapping and the use of weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said.
The group's goal is to institute " a rigid interpretation of Sharia law" in Somalia by destabilizing the country through attacks against Ethiopian, Somali and other African Union forces, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Mostafa as allegedly participated in terrorist attacks, trained soldiers and acted as a media spokesman for al-Shabaab. Video clips played during the news conference showed an apparently masked Mostafa appearing at a Somali refugee camp, in which he read a statement paying tribute to Osama Bin Laden.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Erin Westfall said it's believed Mostafa is in southern Somalia, where the terrorist group's stronghold is located, but that the public's assistance is needed to locate his exact whereabouts.
Mostafa was originally charged in a three-count indictment in 2009, but the superseding indictment unsealed Monday expands the scope of the original charges through 2017, according to prosecutors.
Anyone with information regarding Mostafa's whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or send tips online to tips.fbi.gov . Information can be provided anonymously.
The FBI is hunting for a former San Diego resident they believe is the highest ranking US citizen fighting w/ a Somalia based terrorist group, al-Shabaab. There is a reward of up to $5 million leading to the arrest of Jehad Serwan Mostafa. pic.twitter.com/0fTeA1UE9t
— Merrilee Moore (@mmooreofficial) December 2, 2019
FBI SAC Scott Brunner announced during this afternoon's press conference "wanted terrorist Jehad Serwan Mostafa is currently believed to be in Somalia, the FBI is seeking the assistance of the public, both in the US and East Africa, in locating and apprehending Mostafa." #Wanted pic.twitter.com/nOcgtaS6s7
— FBI San Diego (@FBISanDiego) December 2, 2019