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Warlord leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram ‘blows himself up’ in deadly clash with rivals

THE warlord leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has blown himself up during a deadly shootout with rivals, say reports today.

Abubakar Shekau – once rejected by ISIS for being too radical – “killed himself” amid a bloody clash with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Abubakar Shekau was once rejected by ISIS for being too radical
AP:Associated Press

Shekau reportedly died after detonating an explosive device[/caption]

Reuters said it had heard an audio recording made by the ISWAP which said Shekau died during a battle sometime around May 18.

He was reportedly killed after detonating an explosive device, according to a person on the recording who identified himself as ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

Shekau’s apparent death marks a major shift in Nigeria’s 12-year-old jihadist insurgency which has left 40,000 people dead and displaced around two million people.

Under Shekau, Boko Haram staged bombings, kidnappings and prison breaks.

And from 2014, it began overrunning towns in a bid to create an Islamic State under Sharia law.

Boko Haram has not yet officially commented on the death of its leader while the Nigerian army said it was investigating the claim.

“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the hereafter to getting humiliated on Earth. He killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive,” said the voice resembling that of al-Barnawi on the new recording.

He said his fighters had sought the warlord on orders of the ISIS leadership, chasing him and offering him the chance to repent and join them.

The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has terrorised millions
In 2014 the group shocked the world when it kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls

“From there he retreated and escaped, ran and roamed the bushes for five days. However, the fighters kept searching and hunting for him before they were able to locate him,” the voice said.

After finding him in the bush, ISWAP fighters urged him and his followers to repent, the voice added, but Shekau refused and killed himself.

“We are so happy,” the voice said, describing Shekau as “the big troublemaker, persecutor and destructive leader of the nation.”

Shekau, 47, has been described as the world’s most-wanted fugitive.

In December, his group claimed responsibility for kidnapping more than 300 boys from a school in Nigeria’s northwest region.

Shekau unleashed a posse of gun-toting, motorbike-riding jihadis who stormed the secondary school in Kankara.

The group was also behind the 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 girls from the northern town of Chibok, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign backed by then US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Shekau had led Boko Haram since July 2009, yet despite masterminding a string of atrocities he had always evaded capture or assassination.

Michelle Obama was among those who called for the return of the group’s hostages
The group has caused havoc in West and Central Africa

The US government even offered a reward of up to £4.6m for information on his location.

Shekau has been reported as dead on numerous occasions, only to later appear in videos.

The latest claims, however, appeared to have been confirmed by a Nigerian intelligence report shared by a government official.

ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016, objecting to Shekau’s indiscriminate targeting of Muslim civilians and use of women suicide bombers.

“This was someone who committed unimaginable terrorism and atrocities. For how long has he been leading people astray? How many times has he destroyed and abused people?” the voice on the recording said.

Who are Boko Haram?

Boko Haram believe in a very strict version of Salafi and Wahabi Islam which forbids, or makes “haram”, the taking part in anything associated with Western culture.

Their wide ranging and deeply conservative interpretation of this bars voting in elections, receiving a secular education or even wearing shirts and trousers.

They believe their native Nigeria is run by infidels even when the country elects Muslim presidents.

Boko Haram’s goal is the overthrow of the Nigerian state and running the country according to their twisted world view.

The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.

But locals in the city of Maiduguri, where the group had its headquarters took to calling it Boko Haram.

The loose translation from the language of the region is “Western education is forbidden”.

In the past two years, ISWAP emerged as the more dominant force in the region, carrying out large-scale attacks against the Nigerian military.

As the group now looks to absorb Shekau’s fighters and territory, the army potentially faces a more unified jihadist force, analysts say.

But ISWAP may also struggle to control or persuade Boko Haram factions loyal to Shekau to join their cause.

“It may not be over yet,” one security source said. “ISWAP will have to subdue or convince these camps to coalesce (them) into its fold to fully consolidate its control.”

But should ISWAP absorb part of Shekau’s men and weapons, it might be in a position to cut off roads to and from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, said Peccavi Consulting, a risk group specialising in Africa.

“If ISWAP convinces Shekau’s forces to join them, they will be controlling the majority of the enemy forces as well as having a presence in most of the ungoverned spaces in the northeast,” it said in a note.

Since 2019, Nigeria’s army has pulled out of villages and smaller bases to hunker down in so-called “supercamps”, a strategy critics say allows jihadists to roam free in rural areas.

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