A sneak peek at the State Department's campaign to apprehend two American jihadists

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:


Kenyan government yanks condom ad featuring unfaithful woman

Kenya's efforts to promote safe sex and combat HIV/AIDS have apparently hit a snag, as religious leaders have accused the government of promoting infidelity instead. 

The controversy began when Kenyan health officials teamed up with USAID and a similar agency in the U.K. to sponsor a television advertisement showing two women shopping in the marketplace. One of the women reminds her friend to use a condom while having sex with her boyfriend when her frequently drunk husband is away. The boyfriend is shown in the background, selling shoes and flirting with another woman.

The commercial quickly came under attack from Christian and Muslim leaders who argue that it promotes immorality and infidelity. "The advert depicts this nation as a Sodom and Gomorrah and not one that values the institution of marriage and family," a leader of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, declared. One woman criticized the ad for using a mother as the main character. "The fact that a mother figure has been used makes it worse because mothers are the people who stand for families and the ones who teach children the good morals," she said. (Past condom ads in Kenya have been decidedly humorous, though they haven't exactly put public-health messages front and center.) The government has since withdrawn the ad.

In an interview with NTV, the head of Kenya's National Aids / STD Control Program (NASCOP), Dr. Peter Cherutich, defended the spot, arguing that Kenyans "cannot bury our heads in the sand." Sexual infidelity is a reality in the country, he explained, and NASCOP is doing its duty by promoting sexual health in light of this fact:  

The collaboration that we would like to have with the church is that they become our partners. They teach their congregants and they teach Kenyans how to protect themselves against HIV, by being faithful to their sexual partners. And for those that are not able to be faithful, then they need to use a condom.

"We know for a fact that a big proportion of both men and women have sex outside their regular partnerships," Cherutich told the BBC in another interview. "And so, unfaithfulness, as you would call it, is a reality that we need to address in this country." NASCOP says that it is also trying to fight the stereotype that only men are unfaithful, while emphasizing that the task of using condoms should not be left to men alone. 

It's an important conversation -- but one many Kenyans appear ambivalent about having as families gather around the television.