Former al-Shabaab leader runs for office in Somalia

Mukhtar Robow, who led one of Africa’s deadliest terrorist groups, hopes to be regional president

Mukhtar Robow
(Image credit: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

A former senior commander of the East African terrorist group al-Shabaab has launched a campaign to become a regional president in Somalia.

Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, was the target of a $5 million US bounty before he defected from the Islamist group in 2013 and surrendered to the Somali government last year.

He now hopes to secure enough votes in next month’s election to govern the Southwest region of the east African nation.

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Robow, who is still under US sanctions, was the co-founder, spokesperson and deputy leader of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group which has been responsible for thousands of deaths in Somalia and neighbouring nations since 2007.

The New York Times describes him as an “elusive, charismatic militant”, who “seemed more moderate than many of his comrades, and enjoyed sitting for interviews with Western reporters and speaking of his dream to turn Somalia around”.

Since giving himself up to Somali authorities last year, he has publicly denounced the terror group and urged militants to put down their weapons.

Robow, who is believed to be around 50 years old, says he entered the political race after being approached by voters in his hometown.

“I have accepted the requests and, if God wills, we will win and peace will prevail,” he told supporters at a rally earlier this month.

But his political campaign puts Somalia’s federal government in “an awkward spot”, the Associated Press reports, as “observers say the man who once praised Osama bin Laden and tried to impose an Islamic state has a good chance at winning next month’s election”.

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