Mogadishu’s ongoing battle with Al Shabaab extremists has received a boost with the defection of a senior Al Shabaab militant to the side of the government, international media reported.
Zubair Al Muhajir, who was born in Ivory Coast and joined Al Shabaab in 2006, fell out with the group in 2013 and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned for three years, Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.
“I defected because Al Shabaab, they are lying to the Muslims and to the world. They are claiming to implement the Sharia (Islamic law) which is not true because I know from incidents where they went against the Sharia,” he told Voice of America (VOA).
“The reality of their actions is totally against their Sharia – they are killing innocent people and they are lying to the people. If the people realise that the ideology is wrong with Islamic proofs, I think Al Shabaab will no longer be there for a long time,” he added.
Somali government forces, with support from the African Union Mission in Somalia and special forces from the United States African Command have been battling Al Shabaab militants for years, with the combined forces managing several years ago to drive members of the group out of the capital Mogadishu, after which they regrouped in the countryside.
Despite that initial success Al Shabaab extremists have managed to continue to carry out devastating attacks in the capital and in rural areas against civilian and military targets, including devastating car bombs which have killed hundreds.
In addition to military action against Al Shabaab, the Somali government under President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has offered an amnesty programme to defecting fighters which has encouraged a significant number of youths to abandon the group.