The military commander claims Abu Musab al-Barnawi is dead, but the Islamic State group in West Africa Province (ISWAP) has yet to confirm.
The leader of the Islamic State armed group in the West African Province (ISWAP) is dead, according to a senior Nigerian military commander.
Abu Musab al-Barnawi, a son of the founder of the Nigerian armed group Boko Haram, was pronounced dead on Thursday.
“I can confirm with authority that al-Barnawi is dead. As easy as that. He is dead and remains dead, ”Defense Chief of Staff General Lucky Irabor told reporters, without providing further details on how or when al-Barnawi died.
ISWAP, a branch of ISIL (IS), has not confirmed al-Barnawi’s death, and the Nigerian military has previously claimed to have killed commanders of armed groups before they reappeared.
Al-Barnawi rose to prominence after splitting from Boko Haram in 2016 over disputes with its commander, Abubakar Shekau, who died earlier this year during infighting between the two factions.
The Nigerian military has issued several official statements claiming Shekau had been killed or seriously injured in recent years, before he detonated his explosive jacket during a clash with ISWAP in May.
Since Shekau’s death, al-Barnawi had consolidated ISWAP control in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, but pockets of Boko Haram worshipers retaliated.
More than 40,000 people have died in the conflict in Nigeria and an additional two million people have been displaced from their homes by violence.
Born Habib Yusuf, al-Barnawi is said to be the eldest son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf.
Yusuf died in custody in 2009 and Shekau, who was his deputy at the time, was appointed the group’s new leader.
Al-Barnawi became a spokesperson for Boko Haram but frequently clashed with Shekau. He criticized Boko Haram’s most extreme policies, including the use of children as suicide bombers and the targeting of crowded markets and mosques.
In 2014, Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok shocked the world and drew widespread condemnation.
Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2015 and the group changed its name to ISWAP. But some of his supporters, uncomfortable with his leadership style, parted ways with Shekau’s forces.
Under al-Barnawi’s leadership, they gained recognition from ISIL and retained the name ISWAP, while Shekau remained at the head of a faction that took over the armed group’s original name. , Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, or JAS.
ISWAP, whose primary target is the Nigerian military, has grown in influence and power in recent years, with around 3,500 to 5,000 fighters eclipsing the 1,500 to 2,000 of the Shekau-led faction, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
The two groups have been embroiled in a protracted feud over several ideological differences, with hundreds of their members pronounced dead in previous rounds of fighting.