A renegade leader of Somalia’s al-Shabab has defected to the regional government, severing ties to the armed group that has been carrying out attacks in the country, according to a Somali military official.
Mukhtar Robow has been airlifted to Mogadishu, after surrendering earlier on Sunday to Somali forces in the government-controlled town of Hudur in the country’s southwest.
Ahmed Mohamed, a senior government security official, earlier said Robow was taken from the Bakool jungle area, where he and hundreds of his fighters had been battling al-Shabab since early last week.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, who had interviewed Robow, said the defection is significant as he is one of the founding leaders of al-Shabab, and is the only one living today.
Earlier this week, Robow lost at least 19 of his fighters to al-Shabab.
Robow’s defection comes after the US in June cancelled a $5m reward offered for his capture.
His surrender is culmination of months of talks between the Somali government, and it is believed the cancellation of the bounty for his capture helped convince Robow to turn himself in.
Robow, who was the deputy director of al-Shabab, is the most senior figure to have quit the group since its founding in 2001.