By Feisal Omar
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The one-time deputy leader of Somali Islamist militants al Shabaab called on Tuesday for others to quit the group following his defection to the government side in Mogadishu.
Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, who was also al Shabaab's spokesman, said the group did not represent the interests of those it claimed to.
"I left al Shabaab because of misunderstanding, and I disagreed with their creed which does not serve Islamic religion, people and the country," he said.
Robow fell out with al Shabaab in 2013, keeping a low profile in the jungles with his forces until defecting last week. The Islamists have launched multiple attacks to try kill or capture him.
"I urge the militants to leave al Shabaab," Robow told reporters at a heavily guarded hotel in Mogadishu. He took no questions.
Robow's defection comes two months after the United States removed a $5 million reward for his capture and took him off its list of sponsors of terrorism. It was not immediately clear if the timing of the defection was linked.
The defection, however, it could give pro-government forces more freedom to operate in the regions of Bay and Bakool, cutting al Shabaab's operational territory in two.
Al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab were forced out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. They have also since lost nearly all other territory they previously held after an offensive by Somali government troops and African Union-mandated AMISOM peacekeepers.
The group still remains a formidable threat and frequently carries out bombings both in Mogadishu and other towns against both military, African union forces and civilian targets.
(Editing by by George Obulutsa/Jeremy Gaunt)