Somalia appoints former Al-Shabaab spokesman minister


Somalia’s prime minister has appointed former Al-Shabaab group co-founder and spokesman Muktar Robow as minister in the country’s new cabinet, a move that could either help bolster the fight against the insurgency , or provoke clashes between clans.

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said in televised remarks that Robow, who once received a US$5 million bounty on his head before splitting from Al-Shabaab in 2013, would be the minister in charge of religion .

Robow publicly denounced his membership in the Islamist sect in 2017 and pledged his support to Somali authorities, the US State Department said at the time.

He had previously left the terror group after a disagreement with its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in 2013. Godane was killed in a US drone strike the following year.

Robow was one of the most senior Al-Shabaab members to leave the sect, analysts told CNN. He was, however, unable to persuade many fighters to surrender with him to the Somali government, said Stig Jarle Hansen, author of “Al-Shabaab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group”.

“Robow is one of the earliest members of Al-Shabaab, and one of the main [members] Afghan veterans who returned to Somalia,” Hansen told CNN.

Al-Shabaab fought to overthrow the Somali government and establish rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia.

Earlier in May, the sect overran a major military base housing African Union forces in Mogadishu, killing a number of peacekeepers.

Al-Shabaab has long been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States.