African Union force says not involved in arrest of Somalia's ex-Shabaab leader

Reuters, Saturday 15 Dec 2018

File Photo: Former al Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow attends a news conference in Baidoa, Somalia, November 4, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

African Union peacekeepers did not help in the arrest of a former al Shabaab leader that led to clashes in which 11 people were killed, the AU force said, following a report that Ethiopian members of the force had been involved.

Somalia's Internal Security Ministry said it arrested Mukhtar Robow on Thursday, accusing him of bringing Islamist militants and weapons back to Baidoa, the capital of South West region where he is running for president.

Robow's spokesman had said he was beaten by Ethiopian troops, who are part of the AU peacekeeping force in Somalia, in the course of his arrest. Local elders and residents had also said Ethiopian troops had helped with the arrest.

"AMISOM had no part in the arrest of Mr. Robow and his subsequent transfer to Mogadishu," the force said.

"AMISOM will continue to recognise and respect the sovereignty of the people and the government of Somalia and reiterates its resolve to remain impartial in the implementation of its mandate in the country," it said in a statement.

Robow, a former prominent al Shabaab insurgent and group spokesman, publicly renounced violence and recognised federal authority in August 2017.

His arrest triggered clashes between security forces and his supporters on Thursday and Friday that killed 11 people, including a regional government lawmaker.

The regional elections are a critical point in a growing power struggle between the U.S.-backed central government and regions where al Shabaab militants retain a presence following a long civil war.

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