In return for gathering intelligence on al-Shabaab militants, defectors receive monthly salaries and military training, according to the head of military intelligence in Banadir, Khalif Ahmed Irig.
“Over the past four months, we have welcomed hundreds of fleeing defectors who have brought us cars, light weapons and explosives,” he told Sabahi.
Irig said the government is using the information provided by the defectors to hunt down al-Shabaab members who have infiltrated civilian populations in areas under government control.
“Some told us the locations of the radicals’ weapons caches and the whereabouts of hiding armed members who have been involved in assassinations in the capital,” he said. “We have detained a large number of those elements and are hunting down the rest by searching homes in southern and northern Mogadishu.”
Irig said recruiting former al-Shabaab members into the intelligence services is done with complete co-operation from army, police and intelligence leaders.
Hassan Moalim Ibrahim, also known as Hassan al-Wijidi, was a recruiter and a public affairs specialist for al-Shabaab in Bay and Bakol regions. He said he decided to abandon the militant group’s campaign of killing members of the Somali government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, and then escaped the town of Burhakaba and turned himself in to the Somali army on July 28th.
“I sought refuge with the transitional government after turning myself in and I still seek forgiveness from the people for my previous calls and words inciting war,” he told Sabahi. “From where I stand today, I can confirm that al-Shabaab is following a wrong and radical approach to Islamic sharia as they continue their injustice, oppression and recruitment of child soldiers, who cannot carry weapons and should only repeat slogans of peace and love.”
“I am starting to work on [myself] and I joined a local university to finish my studies, which I stopped in 2009,” he said. “I denounce all criminal and unjust methods implemented by the terrorist group, which has sanctioned the bloodletting of innocent civilians. This is contradictory with the values of Islam, humanity, freedom, justice and human rights, as well as the rights to express one’s political opinions, to determine the fate of one’s country and to realise personal aspirations.”
Zakaria Adam Nur was an al-Shabaab fighter who was able to peacefully defect to the security forces. He escaped al-Shabaab’s military efforts to defend the town of Jowhar and fled to Mogadishu. There, he surrendered to the Somali national army, which turned him in to the intelligence services for investigation.
He was subsequently awarded money in exchange for the rifle he carried with him.
“I doubt I will aim my weapon at the AMISOM-backed [Somali government] again,” he told Sabahi. “On the contrary, I will support them in the event of a conflict against war profiteers, whose hands are stained with the blood of the Somali people because they use religion to incite murder and suicide operations.”
“I will faithfully serve my beloved country. I feel only remorse and loss for my previous actions with the group and I ask my fellow countrymen to forgive me for all the security problems I was complicit in,” he said.
Mohamed Osman, also known as Taliban, said he dissented from the group and fled to Mogadishu after deciding not to carry out missions and assassinations of government officials, military officers and civil-society activists.
He turned himself in on August 18th. “After much thought, deliberation and taking stock of what has happened, I decided to resign from terrorism,” Osman told Sabahi.
“I completed training on street fighting and assassination plots, but I did not carry out the first plot assigned to me by the security unit, which takes orders from al-Shabaab emir Ahmed Abdi Godane. I surrendered to the Somali security forces,” he said.
In August, the Somali government and AMISOM published a National Disengagement Framework for former al-Shabaab members. “The disengagement framework establishes security and protection measures for the reception and community-led re-insertion of disengaged fighters, who formally renounce armed violence,” the Somali government said in a statement.
The government asked for a $19 million grant to ensure the success of the rehabilitation programme. The project shelters and feeds former militants, in addition to offering vocational courses in handicrafts, mechanics, traditional professions such as metal working, tailoring, electrical wiring of buildings and offices, lighting maintenance, farming and fishing.