He was once the No. 2 leader of Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab. Now he's running for a regional presidency in Somalia, defying a government that says he's ineligible because he remains under international sanctions.
If Mukhtar Robow, once the subject of a $5 million U.S. reward, presses on with his campaign, observers say he has a good chance at winning next month's election.
Robow surprised Somalis by defecting to a delighted government last year. But now the government worries about his popularity in the Southwest region, backing its own candidate with money, armored vehicles and security forces.
The election drama is a major test of Somalia's U.S.-backed efforts to encourage al-Shabab defectors and weaken an extremist group that still controls large parts of the country.