Zacheaus Somorin with agency reports
The Islamic State has named a new leader for Boko Haram. His name is Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who was once appointed as the spokesman for the insurgent group, replacing Abubakar Shekau.
According to BBC, Al-Barnawi is featured in the latest issue of an ISIS magazine. The magazine makes no reference to Shekau. Shekau was last seen in a Boko Haram propaganda video in March 2015, one of many footages released in his years of leading a brutal campaign against the Nigerian state.
In one of the videos, Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS, which was originally based in Syria and Iraq. ISIS has several offshoots now in other countries including Libya. Shekau took over as Boko Haram leader after the group’s founder, Muhammad Yusuf, died in police custody in July 2009.
In the interview in IS’s weekly Arabic magazine, al-Naba, Barnawi said his group “remained a force to be reckoned with” and said it had been drawing new recruits. He described the group’s battle against West African states as a war fought by Muslims against “apostates” and “crusaders”.
Little is known about Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, who appeared in a Boko Haram video in January 2015 as the group’s spokesman. He wore a turban and his face was blurred out and it was filmed as a sit-down studio interview.
Unlike Abubakar Shekau, his delivery in the Hausa language was considered and softly spoken. Shekau was often filmed in the open, surrounded by fighters, loudly proclaiming his threats, victories and giving rambling ideological lectures.
However, Barnawi pulled no punches, warning that towns which resisted Boko Haram in its mission to create an Islamic state would be flattened. He also spoke of being against democracy and foreign education.
In his most recent magazine interview, he again objected to the name Boko Haram, by which local people call the group, as it means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa He maintained IS was still strong in the region and promised to continue fighting West African governments.
Nigeria’s army has claimed to have killed Shekau on several occasions, and he has not appeared in a video since joining IS.
Boko Haram appeared to be on the back foot following a military campaign by the Nigerian army and its allies from neighbouring countries. This raised questions over whether the IS link had been of any benefit.
But recently the group has stepped up its attacks against regional security forces. A UN convoy was also ambushed last week in north-eastern Nigeria. Even on social media, the jihadist group has resumed its propaganda campaign.
The increase in attacks could worsen the humanitarian situation around the Lake Chad region, where tens of thousands of people remain in miserable conditions in overcrowded camps.Aid agencies also warn that children are dying there in large numbers from malnutrition.
Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education. It Launched military operations in 2009. Thousands have been killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls. Boko Haram Joined so-called Islamic State, calls itself IS’s “West African province”