The former number-two leader of al-Shabab says he has quit the Somalia-based militant group.
Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, faced the media at a hotel in Mogadishu where he made the announcement on Tuesday.
“I would like to state to the Somali people and the international community that I quit al-Shabab five years and seven months ago and that I’m not a member of the group,” he said in a prepared statement.
He said he quit the group because of ideological differences.
“I quit because of misunderstanding and differences over the ideology, which is not in the interest of the religion, people and the country,” he said.
The former al-Shabab official indicated he is holding talks with the Somali government and said “I’m hopeful we can pave the way for a lasting peace.”
Robow surrendered to the Somali government on Sunday in the Bakool region after several days of heavy fighting between his militia and al-Shabab fighters. He said al-Shabab wanted to kill him.
“For five years and seven months I was living in the jungle where I was attacked [by al-Shabab]. They wanted to kill me but I defended myself,” he said.
Robow was a founder of al-Shabab and served as the group’s deputy leader under longtime emir Ahmed Abdi Godane. The two men were known to have sharp differences over tactics and strategy in al-Shabab’s war to overthrow the Somali government and install a strict Islamist state.
In 2012, the U.S. government offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Robow’s capture or death. The U.S. dropped the reward offer in June, as al-Shabab closed in on Robow’s hideout.