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Al Shabaab Co-Founder Is Somalia’s New Religion Minister

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Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre on Tuesday named Mukhtar Robow as minister for religious affairs. Robow is a co-founder and spokesman of the Islamic group Al Shabaab and the move that could either help turn the tide against insurgents or provoke further clan clashes.

After he co-founded Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab and served as the group’s spokesman, Robow had attracted a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.

In an attempt to depose Somalia’s Western-backed central government and administer its interpretation of Sharia law, Al Shabaab terrorists have murdered tens of thousands of people.

Robow left the group in 2013 and publicly condemned Al Shabaab when he shifted sides towards the government in 2017.

But the relationship deteriorated after he gained political power. Somalia’s previous government arrested Robow in December 2018 while he was campaigning for the regional presidency of southwest state.

There were protests following his arrest, and the security forces shot 11 people dead drawing sharp criticism from the United Nations.

Robow’s new job started a flurry of hashtags on Twitter saying he had made it #FromPrisonertoMinister. The leader was under house arrest until recently.

According to Reuters, his appointment could help strengthen government forces in his native Bakool region, where insurgents hold substantial amounts of territory but where Robow also commands support. Or it could fan flames with the region’s president, who sees him as a political rival.

“We welcome his appointment. The move will advance reconciliation and will serve as a good example for more high-level Al-Shabab defections,” said political analyst Mohamed Mohamud.

“Al Shabaab members who might be thinking of surrendering … can dream of serving their country at the highest levels.”

New Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, has promised to take the fight to the terrorists.

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