Cape Times

Somali rebel leader quits al-Shabaab


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. Reuters

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