According to a video statement from its supposed new commander, Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorist group has reported the death of its chief Abubakar Shekau, who reports believe perished during infighting with a rival Islamic State-allied cell.
Top Boko Haram commander Bakura Modu, also known as Sahaba, asked his faction’s commanders to remain loyal after the loss of their historic commander in a short video in Arabic.
Though Islamic State in West Africa Province, or ISWAP, has recently emerged as the main force in Nigeria’s more than decade-long Islamist insurgency, Shekau’s death was considered as a dramatic turn in the battle.
The video, which was handed to AFP by a source close to Boko Haram and confirmed by another local source to be Bakura Modu, shows that jihadist infighting in Africa’s most populous country is far from ended.
Shekau, who rose to prominence after abducting almost 300 schoolgirls in 2014, murdered himself last month instead of surrendering as IS-allied rivals stormed his base camp in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state, according to security sources.
ISWAP commander Abu Musab Al-Barnawi claimed Shekau murdered himself while fleeing ISWAP militants in an audio recording.
Bakura is backed by scores of armed fighters in formation as he addresses the camera in the undated Boko Haram film, in what is normally a jihadist group’s approach of unveiling a new leader.
“Commanders of Jama’atu Ahlu Sunna Lidda’awati Wal Jihad. Be steadfast and draw your swords, spreading your jihad, decapitating the enemy,” he said, using the official name of Shekau’s Boko Haram faction also known as JAS.
“Don’t allow what befalls you these days to weaken your resolve on the jihad your are waging, because Allah has not forsaken your efforts.”
He also implores Boko Haram commanders to resist Barnawi, the ISWAP commander.
Infighting between Nigeria’s two competing jihadist organizations erupted shortly after the initial rumors of Shekau’s death last month. According to intelligence sources, ISWAP fighters moved against Boko Haram commanders who refused to surrender and join their ranks.
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