Renegade al-Shabab leader defects to government

Roobow Abu Mansur

Roobow Abu Mansur

Robow had served as an al-Shabab spokesman, military commander and spiritual leader who planned and executed deadly attacks on Somali government troops and African Union peacekeeping forces, according to the United States government.

Former Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow on Sunday defected to the Somalia security forces following a bitter fight with militants in Abal location, an official said.

A renegade leader of Somalia's al-Shabab has defected to the government side, severing ties to the armed group that has been carrying out attacks in the country, according to a Somali military official. "Robow is now in Hudur town with southwest State officials".

Earlier this week, Robow lost at least 19 of his fighters to al-Shabab, our correspondent said.

Last June, U.S. State Department has withdrawn its $5 million bounty on Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, that has been in place since 2012, following consultations with Somali government to facilitate his surrender.

Robow and al-Shabab parted ways in 2013, and since then he had been laying low in the jungles with his forces.

Abu Mansor and militias loyal to him have recently been facing attacks from Al-Shabaab fighters in his hideout at Abal settlement. It was not immediately clear if the timing of the defection was linked.

He is among the founders of Al Shabaab, after the collapse of the Union of the Islamic Courts, a coalition of Islamists that controlled most of the southern and central regions of Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, in 2006.

Al-Shabab also faces a new military push from the U.S. after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including air strikes.

Al Shabaab, however, remains a formidable threat and frequently carries out bombings both in Mogadishu and other towns against both military and civilian targets.

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