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Somali Insurgent Defects

A senior Somali militant who had been on the run for several years has surrendered to the government, intelligence official tells VOA Somali.

Mukhtar Robow Ali, known as “Abu Mansour,” met with government representatives early Sunday morning at his hideout in Abal village in southwest Somalia, and was later taken to the main town of Huddur, a senior regional official told VOA Somali.

Shine Moallim Nurow is the commander of Special Forces in the southwestern regional administration. He led government officials who reached Robow’s base in Abal on Saturday.

He said he met him last night in the battle field in Abal where Robow’s men and al-Shabab have been fighting for the past few days.

“We have been tasked by the central government and the southwestern regional administration to go there, we met him there and then we agreed with him to come together to Huddur,” he said.

“I can confirm to you that he is in Huddur, he is sitting with me now,” he said.

According to a senior intelligence official Robow told government officials that he has defected from al-Shabab and wants to work with the Somali government.

Robow was a spokesman, defense chief and deputy leader of al-Shabab. He was one of the few al-Shabab leaders who were trained in Afghanistan.

Asked about how the government is going to treat Robow, Nurow admitted that he has weight.

“Sheikh Mukhtar is not someone who was chased away by al-Shabab, he is someone who fell out with them, defended his line and stood up to them,” he said.

“Until now his men are defending his base, if someone defends his position you can feel that he is agreed to come because of talks,” he said.

Robow has 400 militias he collected from clan loyalists who still remain in his old base in Abal village, 18km south of Huddur, the official said. It will be the most significant defection from al-Shabab if the government succeeds in in transferring all his men to its side.

Robow is now meeting with senior government officials including defense minister Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed and other regional officials.

Robow has been fighting against his former al-Shabab colleagues during the past five days in a remote area south of Huddur town. Robow’s men repulsed two major al-Shabab attacks since Wednesday. 19 people were killed in the clashes.

On Saturday reinforcement troops sent by the regional administration and the Somali military reached Abal village.

In June the U.S. withdrew a $5 million bounty which was put on Robow’s head in 2012.

Robow has served as a spokesman, defense chief and deputy leader for al-Shabab.