The leader of Nigerian militant organisation Boko Haram killed himself in a fight against its rival group, Islamic State West Africa Province, AFP reported citing an audioclip obtained on Sunday. The confirmation from the Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP, came two weeks after reports emerged that Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau had died.
“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the hereafter to getting humiliated on earth,” said a voice resembling ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi. “He killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive.”
Two unidentified persons familiar with al-Barnawi told Reuters, which also had access to the recording, that the voice on the recording was that of the ISWAP leader.
Shekau’s death, however, has not been confirmed by Boko Haram. The Nigerian army has said it was investigating the claim.
Boko Haram is a group that gained attention after abducting more than 270 schoolgirls from Nigeria’s Chibok town in 2014. The kidnappings had sparked a global campaign for the return of the schoolgirls, which was backed by many including former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. ISWAP was previously a part of Boko Haram but had split in 2016 and pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State.
In the audio, al-Barnawi said that the group had sent out fighters to Boko Haram’s enclave in the Sambisa forest and had engaged Shekua in a firefight. “From there he retreated and escaped, ran and roamed the bushes for five days,” the voice on the audiotape said. “However, the fighters kept searching and hunting for him before they were able to locate him.”
The ISWAP leader said that after finding Shekau in the bush, its fighters urged him and his followers to repent but the Boko Haram leader refused and killed himself.
“Abubakar Shekau, God has judged him by sending him to heaven,” al-Barnawi said.
Political analysts said that Shekau’s death could end the rivalry between the two groups, allowing Islamic ISWAP to absorb Boko Haram fighters and consolidate its hold on territory in northeastern Nigeria, according to Reuters.
However, the news about Shekau’s death is not new as he has been reported killed on many occasions in the last 12 years but had emerged later in videos.
Shekau had led the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground Islamic sect in 2009 to a full-fledged insurgency that killed kidnapped and looted its way across northeast Nigeria. So far, the group has killed more than 3,000 people and forced 2 million (20 lakh) out of their homes.