Maiduguri: The militant group Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) said in an audio recording heard by Reuters on Sunday (June 6) that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of rival Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram, was dead.
Shekau died around May 18 after detonating an explosive device while being pursued by ISWAP fighters following a battle, according to an audio recording of a person claiming to be ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi.
“God has judged Abubakar Shekau by sending him to heaven,” he can be heard saying.
Two people familiar with al-Barnawi confirmed to Reuters that the voice on the recording belonged to the ISWAP leader.
According to a Nigerian intelligence report shared by a government official and Boko Haram researchers, Shekau is also dead.
Last month, Nigeria’s military announced that it was investigating Shekau’s alleged death, which was also reported in Nigerian and international news outlets.
The audio statement, obtained first by local media https://humangle.ng/iswap-confirms-shekaus-death-says-its-fighters-were-…, is ISWAP’s first confirmation that its arch-rival in the Lake Chad region has been assassinated.
The Islamic State is “consolidating the entire area, including the Lake Chad region and (Shekau’s stronghold),” according to Bulama Bukarti, a Boko Haram analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
“ISWAP had framed Shekau as the problem, and he was the only person they wanted to remove,” Bukarti said of the Islamic State’s attempt to recruit Boko Haram commanders and fighters.
According to political analysts, Shekau’s death could mean the end of a violent rivalry between the two groups, allowing Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) to absorb Boko Haram fighters and consolidate its hold on territory in northeastern Nigeria.
This would allow ISWAP to concentrate its efforts on the government and military, whose war efforts have stalled.
SHEKAU KILLED HIMSELF IMMEDIATELY.
Boko Haram’s leader has been reported to have been killed on several occasions in the last 12 years, including in military announcements, only to reappear in a video post.
The man identified as al-Barnawi said in the audio recording that his fighters went after the warlord on orders from the Islamic State leadership and battled Boko Haram insurgents until Shekau fled.
He claimed that ISWAP pursued him and offered him the opportunity to repent and join them.
“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the afterlife than on earth, and he killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive,” he explained.
Boko Haram’s 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok sparked a global campaign for their release dubbed #BringBackOurGirls, which was backed by Michelle Obama and others.
Around 100 Chibok girls are still missing, and some are believed to have died in captivity.
Shekau oversaw the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground Islamic sect to a full-fledged insurgency in northeast Nigeria, killing, kidnapping, and looting.
The group has killed over 30,000 people, displaced over 2 million people, and caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Before splitting with Boko Haram five years ago, ISWAP pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The schism was caused by religious ideological disagreements over Boko Haram’s killing of civilians, which ISWAP condemned.