Somalia's spy agency, NISA, has rejected claims that it mistreated Mukhtar Rubow, the ex-Shabaab leader who was arrested and detained in early 2020.
NISA instead said Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Ali, known by his alias Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansoor, was in good health.
The agency was responding to a request from internal security minister Abdullahi Mohamed Nur, who this week asked for information on Robow to be provided within 48 hours.
In a December 27 letter signed by NISA acting director Yasin Abdullahi Mohamud, alias Yasin Farey, the agency said Robow was in good health and that he is regularly checked by specially arranged medical staff.
NISA underlined that Robow was under house detention, although it didn't name the location. He had been a former deputy emir of Al-Shabaab who claimed to have surrendered to the Somali government, but NISA said he did not meet all the conditions set for defectors from the group.
“He is under house arrest as he has not cleared the conditions required by defectors from the terrorist group (to fully reintegrate into mainstream society),” the NISA letter said.
It added that Robow is allowed visits from his family.
“He is a university student who is reading a master’s degree course,” it stated.
Trained in Al-Qaeda camps
The agency added that it spends $7,000 every month on him and the well-being of his family, indicating that he is a defector who is not completely free.
“We spend US$7,000 per month to manage Mukhtar Robow Ali’s life and the welfare of his family,” the letter stated, reminding the minister that Robow had held a high rank in Al-Shabaab (as deputy emir and spokesman).
Over a decade ago, Robow told the media in Mogadishu that he was lucky to have been one of the few Somalis trained in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and that on one occasion he shook hands with Osama bin Laden, the then leader of that group.
In late 2019, he defected to the government after falling out with other Shabaab faction leaders. But his bid to contest an electoral seat was curtailed after he was arrested and detained.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, another senior Al-Shabaab defector, is also under house arrest in Mogadishu.
Junior Al-Shabaab defectors generally pass through screening and demobilisation camps before being reintegrated into society.
NISA's letter was copied to the offices of the prime minister and the president.