Mogadishu: A total of 545 members of the armed Islamist militant group Al Shabaab have accepted an amnesty offered by the Somali government after the death of former leader of the militia, Ahmed Abdi Godane.
The number was reported Monday by the Barbaar Initiative, an international agency which support the reintegration of former fighters.
The increasing number of desertions from the militant ranks shows that the group is gradually being weakened by continuing military offensives and loss of income, the government claims.
The Somali ministry of youth and sports has called for support from the international community to promote the reintegration process and the training of terrorists who put down their weapons.
The government amnesty, which could be taken advantage of in 45 days after it was offered, aims to incite fighters from Al Shabaab, a group that in February 2012 joined the Al Qaeda terrorist network, to abandon the armed struggle.
The move was announced after the death of Godane, a co-founder and leader of the Al Shabaab group since 2008.
Godane was succeeded by Ahmed Omar and the government has offered a reward of $2-million for knowledge of his whereabouts.
The head of Somalia's intelligence service, Abdirahman Tuuryare, said the government would protect any person who provided information.
He also said he believed Omar would be captured soon, due to the "large number" of members who have left the group after the death of their former leader.
Al Shabaab, struggling to establish a radical Islamic state in Somalia, was added in 2008 to the US government's list of terrorist organisations.
In September last year, it was blamed for killing 67 people in a four-day siege at a shopping mall in the Kenya's capital, Nairobi.
Somalia has been in a state of civil war and chaos since 1991 after the ouster of the regime of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre which left the country without an effective government and in the hands of Islamist militias, tribal warlords and gangs of armed criminals.