Somalia: Former Al-Shabab No. 2 to regain his freedom

In this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, Mukhtar Robow, who was once deputy leader of Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, speaks at a press conference about his candidacy for a regional presidency, in Baidoa, Somalia. Once the No. 2 leader of al-Shabab, now Mukhtar Robow is running for a regional presidency in Somalia, defying a government that says he's ineligible because he remains under international sanctions. (AP Photo)

MOGADISHU, Somalia – There have been ongoing talks which aimed to release the former deputy leader of the al-Shabaab extremist group Sheikh Mukhtar Robow.

Robow has been under house arrest for last couple months in Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Mogadishu-based government and South West State President Abdiaziz Laftagareen discussed on Robow’s release, according to Radio Shabelle based in Mogadishu.

Laftagareen informed Robow that talks to release him are ongoing.

But, it is unclear when he will regain his freedom.

Somali security force backed by Ethiopian troops arrested Robow from Baidoa town last December.

Somali government says he was suspected of bringing militants and weapons to Baidoa, the capital of South West State, where he was running for regional presidential election.

Robow’s popularity was evident in Baidoa after his arrest.

His supporters filled the streets couple days, and sporadic fighting resulted in 11 deaths, including that of a local lawmaker, according to police.

A videos posted on social media showed spirited protesters calling for his release along streets littered with debris from rioting.

Robow’s candidacy has implications not just for his war-torn Horn of Africa nation, but also for international military and reconstruction missions in conflict and post-conflict zones across the world.

Robow’s arrest raises doubts about the Somali government’s tolerance for regional politicians who want to maintain greater autonomy.

As militants from Afghanistan to Yemen are being nudged to negotiating tables following a realisation that military operations alone do not bring peace, Robow’s political future has turned into a crucible for reconciliation and reconstruction efforts in fragile states.

His rocky transition from jihadist to politician is also an indicator of the challenges confronting the international community as multilateral institutions sometimes find themselves supporting governments mired in corruption and with no ability to deliver governance outside heavily fortified capital cities.

In 2017, Robow Abu Mansur, has announced to have defected to the government, cutting ties with Islamist group al Shabaab.

Al Shabaab fell out with its former spokesman and deputy leader Robow in 2013 and he has been laying low in the jungles with his forces since then.

The Islamists have launched multiple attacks to try kill or capture him.

His defection comes months after the United States removed a $5 million reward for his capture and took him off its list of sponsors of terrorism after five years.