The Deputy Minister of Security for the South West State of Somalia, Abdirizak Abdi Adan has confirmed that Al-Shabaab militants launched an attack.on Wednesday morning against their ex-deputy leader Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur in Abal (Yabaal) village in the Bay and Bakool region

“The fighting was between Mukhtar Roboow Abu Mansoor and al-Shabaab fighters. The fighting took place until early morning this morning, ” said the minister.

No casualties are reported as of yet.

According to local residents, Mukhtar Robow is rumoured to be surrounded by 400 of his most loyal and battle hardened fighters.

The Somali government confirmed they were in communication with Mukhtar Robow and hinted that they were open at the idea of providing reinforcements to the former Al-Shabaab leader.

“There was and is, negotiation going on between Mukhtar Robow and the Somali federal government but still there is no guarantee that he will defect,” Colonel Aden Ahmed, an officer in the national military, told Reuters on June 30 from southwestern Hudur town, near Robow’s stronghold.

“Those troops are now on the outskirts of the town. We cannot send them directly for many reasons. Al Shabaab may ambush us, Robow himself may ambush our forces. We shall give reinforcement to Robow only after we confirm that fighting between al Shabaab and Robow breaks out.”

The former rebel commander was allegedly demanded by Al-Shabaab to rejoin their group or face their wrath but rejected the ultimatum, according to the Mayor of Hudur, Mohamed Mollie Mohamed. His refusal to rejoin Al-Shabaab raised hopes that he may work with the Somali government and reduce Al-Shabaab’s operational capacity in the region.

One of the original founders of Al-Shabaab, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow fell out of favour with the late emir Ahmed Abdi Godane (Mukhtar Abu Zubair) over the use of foreign fighters. The ensuing row split Al-Shabaab into two factions and eventually led to the death of American fighter Omar Hammami and the defection of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.