In what could be a looming battle within Al-Shabaab factions and AMISOM troops, militants loyal to jailed Al-Shabaab ex-commander Mukhtar Robow were pictured in the South West region of Baidoa.
The photos first posted by Voice of America journalist Harun Maruf are believed to have been taken this month, with the militants ready to tackle their opponents and probably force the release of Robow.
They are seen pausing with deadly weapons and vehicles that are believed to have been specifically bought to navigate tough terrains of the region.
“Caaro Caaro” militias loyal to jailed ex-Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow, outside Huddur town, Bakool region. August 2019," said Maruf.
Robow, who was trained by al-Qaida in Afghanistan, was one of the founders of al-Shabab in 2006 and served as its number-two leader for several years.
In 2012, the U.S. government offered $5 million for information on his whereabouts.
But a rift within al-Shabab, between parts of the group seeking to establish a global caliphate and others like Robow who were more focused on national issues, drove him away from the group.
In 2013, fearing for his life, Robow went into hiding, protected by his own loyal militia in South Western region of Bakol, starting secret negotiations with the Somali government.
He finally turned himself over to authorities of the Somali Federal Government in August 2017, after the United States removed the bounty on his head.
In October, he announced that he was running for president of Somalia's South West region, but the federal government issued a sharp "no" to his candidacy.
But in 2018 December, AMISOM troops arrested him and drove him under tight security to Mogadishu where he is being held to date, a reason why violence could break out.
Kenya Defense Forces and Ethiopian military have been manning Baidoa, a region that was under violence during Robow's time as supreme leader.