Mogadishu, Somalia — The former deputy leader, spokesperson, and fellow architect in the creation of the Somalia-based terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow surrendered to the Somali government on Sunday following bloody clashes between his militia and fighters from al-Shabaab. Robow who exiling himself in his home village of Huder some time in 2013 after internal struggles within the al-Shabaab high command became violent turned himself over to regional government officials after months of negotiation between Robow and spokespersons of the SouthWest State in southern Somalia.
It is believed that removing Robow from the U.S. State Department’s ‘Rewards for Justice’ Program which held a $5 million dollar bounty in early June 2017 would entice the former leader of al-Shabaab to turn himself in willingly to the Somali government. However, what seems to be the driving factor of Robows reported ‘defection’ from al-Shabaab was the attack he and his Rahanweyn clan militia endured and eventually thwarted.
Robow’s Rahanweyn clan militia lost 19 members in that week-long bloody engagement in the southwestern region of Bakool in the Lower Shabelle of Somalia.
Robow met with Somali officials in his hometown of Huder then was flown to the capital city of Mogadishu where it was reported that he, along with the Somali Ministry of Defense, would hold a press conference this week.
Robow will have company within Mogadishu as his long time friend and former leading member of al-Shabaab, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys who along with his Islamic terror group Hizbul Islam cut ties with al-Shabaab in 2013 after he and Robow butted heads with the then leader of al-Shabaab, Ahmed Abdi Godane which turned the leaders against one another. Aweys then surrendered to the Somali government that same year and is still under house arrest within the capital city.
In an interview with CNN, Stig Jarle Hansen the author of “Al-Shabaab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group,” said:
while Robow won’t be able to persuade many of today’s Al-Shabaab fighters to surrender with him, his surrender is still important.” Hansen continued; “Robow is one of the core early members of Al-Shabaab, and one of the core [members] of Afghanistan veterans that returned to Somalia. One of the few of that generation of fighters still alive, and he functioned as a press spokesman for the organization for several years. He is the highest ranking Al-Shabaab member ever to defect. This means that his defection is very ideologically and symbolically important.”
This latest high level defection of Robow from al-Shabaab is no doubt sending shockwaves through the high command of al-Shabaab which will be churning out propaganda to counter this solid blow to their base of power within Somalia. Robow’s surrender also shows that Somalia’s President Farmaajo’s promise of an all out offensive to eradicate al-Shabaab is working. But most importantly this is also a major victory that should be celebrated by the people of Somalia as they are the ones who have been suffering under al-Shabaab’s insurgency for a decade plus.
Feature image courtesy of YouTube.