Baidoa, Somalia — The former deputy leader and founding member of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab (HSM), Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, along with militia from the Rahanweyn clan loyal to the exiled leader came under attack by an unknown number of al-Shabaab fighters loyal to the group’s current leader, Abu Ubaidah, in an intense fire fight in southern Somalia.
The day-long attack which began midday on Wednesday happened in the southwestern region of Bakool within the South West State of Somalia. Robow’s Rahanweyn militia under whithering gun fire from al-Shabaab were forced to retreat from its stronghold near the village of Abal, then returned in force in a violent counter-attack which left upwards of 20 dead.
Robow, who is also known as Abu Mansoor, left the terror group al-Shabaab he helped found in late 2013 after an internal dispute with he and then leader Ahmed Abdi Godane turned to bloodshed and went back to his clan village of Hudur where he has stayed in exile since. The former spokesperson and deputy commander of al-Shabaab surrounded himself with his Rahanweyn clan in the Bakool region where he began training his clan into a formidable militia as well as becoming the clan’s religious leader.
Rumors flying around in the southern regions that Robow had entered into some sort of negotiations with the Somali government seem to be true as the president of the South West State Mohamed Hassan Fiqi in a report confirmed that his government was tracking the latest in-fighting claiming that Robow’s Rahanweyn clan militia managed to route the al-Shabaab attack saying, “[F]orces loyal to Muktar Robow pushed the Al-Shabaab fighters out after several hours of fighting. Many people were killed.” Fiqi also proclaimed that South West State forces were standing ready to assist Robow’s militia stating that, “our forces are on standby to offer support to Robow.”
Robow was taken off the U.S. State Department’s ‘Rewards for Justice’ Program which held a $5 million dollar bounty in early June 2017 after the exiled Robow entered into negotiations with the Somali government. Which in turn came with a sense of celebration from the Somali leadership with former Somali Defense Minister, Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji Fiqi declaring that, “The [Somali] government should take advantage of this split within al-Shabab.”
Robow’s negotiations with the SouthWest State government and removal from the Rewards for Justice program came on the heels of the SouthWest State’s president Fiqi entering into a contract with Erik Prince’s Chinese-owned Frontier Services Group (FSG) that will provide security and logistical support to the Somali South West State’s Administration council’s Free Zone Investment Authority (FZIA), which is designed to attract foreign investments.
With the increase of U.S. and Somali joint special operations strikes as well as some of al-Shabaab’s key outposts and leadership being targeted by U.S. airstrikes, the terror group may be attempting to plug the operational security leaks in its insurgency campaign by way of removing Robow from the equation due to him openly speaking with the Somali government. This latest in-fighting may indicate that the al-Shabaab is cavitating and may crumble onto itself as it attempts to fight on several different fronts.
Feature image courtesy of: YouTube