Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau killed on direct orders of Islamic State

Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau killed on direct orders of Islamic State. The news has been confirmed by a rival extremist faction.

A rival extremist faction has confirmed the death of the leader of the Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram. They said the group carried out the killing on the direct orders of Islamic State’s leadership a lot of miles away in the Middle East.

Abubakar Shekau, who is one of the most infamous leaders of Islamic militant groups anywhere in the world, died last month after detonating an explosive device while being chased by fighters from the Islamic State West African Province (Iswap). The Iswap fighters had stormed Shekau’s base, the Sambisa forest, a cocoon of strategically important dense forest in Nigeria’s north-east.

News of his death both is both a delight and embarrassment to the Nigerian and international security services, who had spent a decade devoting huge resources trying to hunt down Shekau.

The operation against Shekau was launched on the direct orders of the leadership of Isis located in the Middle East, which was concerned by Boko Haram’s indiscriminate targeting of “believers”, underlines the continuing global reach of the group through its affiliates and the possibility of further expansion in Africa.

In the recent months, Islamic extremist factions across the Sahel have intensified attacks, bringing fresh levels of violence in some regions. Over 120 villagers died in an attack in Burkina Faso just last week in one of the bloodiest massacres yet recorded. But no group has  taken responsibility for the attack.

On an audio tape obtained by Humangle, a respected local news website with strong contacts among insurgents and counter-terrorist agencies, the Iswap leader, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, can be heard telling followers that the death of Shekau came in response to orders from the new leader of Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi.

“[Shekau] was someone who committed unimaginable terrorism. How many has he wasted? How many has he killed? How many has he terrorised? But Allah left him alone and prolonged his life. When it was time, Allah set out brave soldiers after receiving orders from the leader of the believers,” he said.

Barnawi’s faction broke away from Boko Haram in 2016 due to personal, religious and strategic disputes. The faction was adopted later by Islamic State’s leadership in Iraq and Syria as its affiliate in the region after Shekau proved impossible to control.

Barnawi, who is seen as a relatively moderate among extremist leaders in the region, had been given the leadership role by an “auditing mission” sent from the Middle East by Isis earlier this year, said Vincent Foucher, an expert in Islamist extremism in Nigeria with the International Crisis Group.

According to Barnawi in his statement, Initially, Shekau escaped the attack on the Sambisa forest, and was able to hide from Iswap fighters for about five days.

When he was found, Shekau escaped again, but was caught once more and then refused an offer to surrender. Though most of his followers are thought to have either disbanded or switched allegiance, at least one of the various groups that made up Boko Haram is resisting the authority of Barnawi.

Shekau was responsible for using young women and girls as suicide bombers as well as the abduction of  the Chibok girls in 2014, in an incident that made global headlines. His unpredictability and tendency towards the most extreme and violent strategies is one of the major reasons why the order was given.

The death of the former street boy leaves Iswap as the unparalleled Islamic extremist group in the Lake Chad basin region.

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