Former Al-Shabaab Member Speaks Out: 'The Path Became Wrong ... I Had a Tipping Point
A Somali defector who was once a member of al-Shabaab is now speaking out against the military group, explaining that he condemns the killing of innocents such as the deadly attack on Garissa University.
Zakariya Ahmed Ismail Hersi, also known as Zaki, had his first interview with BBC this week, and the BBC explained that he had numerous senior positions such as military operations within the group.
He explained that he once had a $3 million bounty from the U.S. government on his head. His defection was a long process that began in 2013, and now his story has become a new government amnesty initiative designed to convince other militants to follow.
"At the beginning, the goal was to liberate Somalia only ... but the path became wrong ... and I had a tipping point," Hersi said.
If he could speak to current militants, Hersi said, "I would say to them to stop such a thing ... to stop targeting civillians."
The Somalia-based terrorist group has claimed responsibility for numerous massacres, most recently the deadly attack on Garissa University. During the attack, Hersi was not a member of the group but he was shocked and condemned it.
Strapped with explosives, masked al Shabaab gunmen stormed the Garissa University College campus, some 120 miles from the Somali border, in a pre-dawn rampage, killing at least 148 people.
Survivors of the Garissa attack spoke of merciless executions by the attackers, who stalked classrooms and dormitories hunting for non-Muslim students.
Reuben Mwavita, 21, a student, said three students were kneeling in front of the gunmen, praying for help.
"The mistake they made was to say 'Jesus, please save us,' because that is when they were immediately shot," Mwavita told Reuters.
In many of their attacks, they have targeted non-Muslims, including Christians. In November 2014, the group was rensponsible for the deaths of 28 Christians during an attack on a bus in Kenya.
The bus was carrying 60 passengers on the way to the capital Nairobi when it was ambushed in Mandera County, militants and witnesses told BosNewsLife.
After the militants forced the passengers to exit the bus, they had the Muslims and non-Muslims separate in two groups. They had all of the non-Muslims enter the bus and the group drove away.
The bus reportedly got stuck in the mud, where 10 militants then gathered the prisoners outside and carried out the executions of the 28 people. The militants later fled to Somalia, BosNewsLife reports.