So­mali rebel leader quits al-Shabaab

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

MO­GADISHU: A for­mer So­mali in­sur­gent leader, Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, has de­fected to the gov­ern­ment, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day, sev­er­ing ties with Is­lamist group al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab fell out with its for­mer spokesman and deputy leader Robow in 2013 and he has been lay­ing low in the jun­gles with his forces. The Is­lamists have launched mul­ti­ple at­tacks to kill or cap­ture him.

An army of­fi­cial said in June there were ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and Robow but there were no guar­an­tees he would de­fect. He said it had sent sol­diers to try to de­fend him.

“Robow and his seven body­guards are now in Hudur with lo­cal of­fi­cials. He will be flown to Mo­gadishu soon,” said Colonel Nur Mo­hamed.

His de­fec­tion comes two months af­ter the US re­moved a $5 mil­lion (R68m) re­ward for his cap­ture and took him off its list of spon­sors of ter­ror­ism af­ter five years. It was not im­me­di­ately clear if the tim­ing of the de­fec­tion was linked.

None­the­less, it could give pro-gov­ern­ment forces more free­dom to op­er­ate in the re­gions of Bay and Bakool, slic­ing al-Shabaab’s op­er­a­tional ter­ri­tory in two.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear what would now hap­pen to Robow, but res­i­dents and an an­a­lyst were doubt­ful about the im­pact of the move.

“It is not good news. The gov­ern­ment should elim­i­nate Robow and the mil­i­tants who fight him. Oth­er­wise it is re­cy­cling the in­sur­gency and mil­i­tants,” said res­i­dent Mo­hamed Edin.

Mo­hamed Aden, a his­tory lec­turer at a Mo­gadishu uni­ver­sity, said: “If crim­i­nals are not taken to court, then there will be no peace.”

Al-Shabaab has been fight­ing for years to top­ple So­ma­lia’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment and rule the Horn of Africa coun­try ac­cord­ing to their own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Sharia law.

The mil­i­tants, who are al­lied with al-Qaeda, were driven out of the cap­i­tal, Mo­gadishu, in 2011. They have also since lost nearly all other ter­ri­tory they pre­vi­ously con­trolled af­ter an of­fen­sive by So­mali gov­ern­ment troops and African Union-man­dated Amisom peace­keep­ers. But al-Shabaab re­mains a for­mi­da­ble threat.

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