Somalia's Al-Qaeda allied Shebab insurgents dismissed a United States offer of up to $33 million for tip-offs for the arrest of top leaders, vowing to continue their extremist fight.
"The non-believers know who are the good Muslim leaders -- and that is why the money is offered for their whereabouts," said website Somalimidnimo.com, which is close to Shebab leaders, adding that the offer would not work.
The highest price put up by the US State Department was for Shebab chief Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed -- more commonly known as Godane or Abu Zubayr -- with a $7 million bounty for information on where he is hiding.
"Selecting Muslim leaders for attacks is like the idea of beating the head of a snake so it would die," Somalimidnimo.com added, saying such attempts in the past had failed.
"While some mujahedeen leaders have already been killed by such plans, others continue the jihad."
However, the reclusive Shehab leaders did not comment directly, with the insurgents on the back foot militarily after a string of territorial losses.
the State Department said in a statement that "the group is responsible for the killing of thousands of Somali civilians, Somali peace activists, international aid workers, journalists and African Union peacekeepers".
The Shebab still control large parts of southern Somalia, but AU troops, government forces and Ethiopian soldiers have clawed back several key bases from the insurgents in recent months.
Last month, the insurgents launched an ambush on Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who escaped unhurt.
The announcement comes as Somalia's disparate leaders struggle to form a government to replace the weak and corrupt Western-backed transitional body in Mogadishu, which is preparing to hand over power by an August 20 deadline.
Since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia has been variously governed by ruthless warlords and militia groups, each controlling their own limited fiefdoms.© ANP/AFP