The leader of Nigerian terrorist Islamist group Boko Haram has died. The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) militant group announced over the weekend that its arch rival died in mid-May—possibly by his own hand. Experts predict ISWAP will now take over all of northeast Nigeria.
Reports of the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau have surfaced several times over the years. But each time, Shekau would appear again in a video post.
Shekau led the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground Islamic sect to a full-fledged terrorist organization. Horribly, the group killed, kidnapped, and looted its way across northeast Nigeria.
Then in 2014, Boko Haram made global news when leaders kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Nigeria. The incident sparked global outrage. Nearly 100 of the so-called Chibok Girls are still missing. Many believe some died in captivity.
Boko Haram has killed more than 30,000 people, forced around two million to flee their homes, and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
This time, Shekau’s death announcement came in the form of a voice recording from a person claiming to be Abu Musab al-Barnawi, an ISWAP leader. Nigerian intelligence officials and Boko Haram researchers and other experts also confirm that Shekau is dead.
Last month, the Nigerian military checked into reports of Shekau’s death. But Al-Barnawi’s audio recording is the first proof of it.
Shekau’s death could end the intense—and deadly—rivalry between ISWAP and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Further, ISWAP could absorb Boko Haram fighters.
ISWAP had been part of Boko Haram. The two split five years ago. ISWAP pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Quarrels over killing ordinary citizens by Boko Haram caused the rift. ISWAP leaders objected to the practice.
If ISWAP does absorb Boko Haram rebels, ISWAP could end up controlling much of northeastern Nigeria, according to political experts.
In the audio recording, a man calling himself al-Barnawi says the Islamic State leadership ordered his fighters to hunt Shekau down. He adds that ISWAP fighters battled Boko Haram rebels and gave Shekau an opportunity to “repent” and join them. Instead, the warlord fled.
Al-Barnawi says, “Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the afterlife than getting humiliated on Earth.” The voice on the recording claims Shekau then ignited an explosive and died in the aftermath. How sad if he ended his life without true knowledge of Jesus Christ!
ISWAP claimed Shekau was the reason for the problems in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram analyst Bulama Bukarti says, “He was the only person they wanted to remove.”
(Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaks to the camera in 2014. AP)