A leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab, who had a $3 million US bounty on his head, surrendered in Somalia, a Somali intelligence official said Saturday.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi surrendered to Somali police in the Gedo region, said the intelligence officer, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

Hersi may have surrendered because he fell out with those loyal to Ahmed Abdi Godane, al-Shabaab's top leader who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this year, the officer said.

Hersi was one of seven top al-Shabaab officials whom the Obama administration offered a total $33 million in rewards for information leading to their capture in 2012. It is not clear if the reward will be paid out for Hersi because he surrendered.

Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabaab remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many attacks in Somalia and some in neighbouring countries including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia's weak UN- backed government.

9 die in Christmas attack

On Christmas day al-Shabaab launched an attack at the African Union base in Mogadishu. Nine people died, including three African Union soldiers, in the attack on the complex, which also houses UN offices and western embassies. Al-Shabaab said the attack was aimed at a Christmas party and was in retaliation for the killing of the group's leader Godane.

Al-Shabaab also claimed that 14 soldiers were killed but the group often exaggerates the number of people it kills.

Al-Shabaab is waging an Islamic insurgency against Somalia's government that is attempting to rebuild the country after decades of conflict.

Al-Shabaab controlled much of Mogadishu during the years 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia's capital and other major cities by African Union forces. The United States and the U.N. warn that political infighting in Somalia is putting at risk the security gains. The federal government remains weak and wields little power outside the capital Mogadishu.