Mukhtar Robow

Alias/es: Abu Mansur

Status: Defected (2013); Detained (2018)

Organisation/s: Al-Shabaab

Nationality/ies: Somali

Travel History: Afghanistan (2000)

Skills/Education/Occupation: Islamic law at the University of Khartoum in Sudan

Mukhtar Robow was a senior military commander and spokesperson for Al-Shabaab. Robow began his militant career following his studies in Islamic Law at the University of Khartoum in the 90s. Though it’s unclear if Robow met Osama bin Laden during the period of his residence in Sudan between 1991 and 1996, Robow went on to establish the first militant Islamist training camp in  Huddur, Somalia in the latter year. In 2000, Robow allegedly traveled to Afghanistan, which is the only account in which Robow confirmed meeting Osama bin Laden. Upon his return, Robow (and Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, with independent sources citing around 2003) brought together remnants of Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI) under the Islamic Courts to serve as its militant wing.

Robow went on to became one of the founding members of Al-Shabaab and commanded the respect and attention of foreign jihadists due to his experience and links with Al-Qaeda. Robow was also known to maintain some clan loyalties, which at times pitted him against Ahmed Abdi Godane. Robow was removed as spokesperson of Al-Shabaab in 2009 following rumours he had began negotiations with the Somali government. Though Robow managed to quell these rumours and others suggesting that he and Hassan Dahiir Aweys were planning to start a rival militant group, tensions between the two figureheads continued. This came to a head in 2013 when Robow, Hassan Dahiir Aweys and Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee’aad ‘Al-Afghani’ challenged Godane’s purge of foreign fighters such as Omar Hammami.

Robow soon fled to Bakool where he was said to have begun engaging in negotiations with the Somali government. In a press conference in 2017, Robow officially renounced Al-Shabaab. The following year, Robow announced his candidacy for the regional elections. Fearing his popularity, the Somali Federal government made several attempts to challenge his candidacy before eventually arranging for Robow’s arrest in December 2018 by Ethiopian AU peacekeepers. Robow still remains behind bars.