Renegade al-Shabab leader defects to government

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Former Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow on Sunday defected to the Somalia security forces following a bitter fight with militants in Abal location, an official said.

"Abu Mansoor who has been at Abal settlement (close to Hudur town) has decided today, Sunday, to surrender to the pro-government forces", said Shine Moalim Nurow, special police commander for Interim South West Administration (ISWA).

"Robow and his seven bodyguards are now in Hudur with local officials".

Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to try to topple Somalia's central government and rule the Horn of Africa country according to their own interpretation of Sharia law.

He left the militant group in 2013 and retreated to his homeland over a disagreement on using foreign fighters in the group.

Robow's defection comes after the U.S. in June cancelled a $5m reward offered for his capture.

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Estimated to be in his 50s, Robow is one of al-Shabab's most experienced leaders, having travelled to Afghanistan and trained alongside al-Qaeda around 2000 after studies in Sudan.

Robow, who was the deputy director of al-Shabab, is the highest official to have ever quit the group.

The surrender of Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansuur follows after The U.S. State Department in consultation with the Federal Government of Somalia removed from Rewards for Justice Listing, which angered the Shabab.

Al-Shabab also faces a new military push from the USA after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including air strikes.

Earlier this week, Robow lost at least 19 of his fighters to al-Shabab, our correspondent said.

The extremist group has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government of President Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed launched a new military offensive against it.

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