Boko Haram Leader Really Did Blow Himself Up, Audio Message Says

DAKAR, Senegal — The head of Nigeria’s best-known terrorist group, Boko Haram, has been reported lifeless many occasions earlier than.

But now proof that this time he would possibly actually be lifeless has emerged by way of an audio message, apparently recorded by the pinnacle of a rival extremist group.

In it, the chief of Islamic State West Africa Province, often called ISWAP, appeared to verify that Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s violent and erratic chief, killed himself reasonably than be taken prisoner in May.

“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the hereafter than on earth,” the voice within the recording says. “He killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive.”

Mr. Shekau was greatest recognized for the kidnapping of tons of of schoolgirls from a boarding college in Chibok in 2014. But his fighters kidnapped, killed, raped and robbed many 1000’s extra, and despatched untold numbers of Nigerians to their deaths as suicide bombers. Millions have been displaced within the area on account of the violence.

The dying of Mr. Shekau, if true, marks the top of a brutal period for northeast Nigeria and its neighboring international locations within the Lake Chad area.

But it may additionally signify the start of a brand new period, through which ISWAP takes new territory after eliminating its chief rival, and amps up confrontations with the Nigerian state and its navy. ISWAP splintered from Boko Haram, reportedly partially due to Mr. Shekau’s violence in opposition to Muslim civilians.

In late May, experiences trickled out that closely armed ISWAP members had arrived at Mr. Shekau’s hide-out within the Sambisa forest. When he realized that there was no technique to escape, he detonated a suicide vest he was sporting, the experiences mentioned.

The Nigerian navy, which has largely retreated to garrison cities within the northeast reasonably than attempting to manage the countryside, mentioned it was investigating. It is extraordinarily troublesome to verify Mr. Shekau’s dying definitively, and he has been falsely reported as lifeless earlier than — by some counts, eight occasions.

The audio was shared with investigative journalist Ahmad Salkida, who is understood to have a very good data of Boko Haram and ISWAP exercise, and who revealed an article about it on Humangle, the information website he co-founded. The voice sounds the identical as that in earlier recordings attributed to Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the chief of ISWAP and the son of Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf.

In the audio, the voice, which speaks within the Kanuri language, says that ISWAP troopers have been advised to “take urgent action” in opposition to Mr. Shekau by “Amirul Muminin,” referring to the chief of ISIS, in response to Mr. Salkida. ISWAP has pledged allegiance to ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ISWAP fighters engaged Mr. Shekau in gunfire, after which he ran away and hid within the bush for 5 days, the audio mentioned. But the fighters tracked him down.

“Our fighters sacrificed their lives and were in a state of fear, thinking that it was an impossible mission to achieve,” the message mentioned. “He was actually caught unawares.”

ISWAP has recently posed the better risk to the Nigerian navy, which is stretched as it’s deployed to struggle varied crises in virtually each one of many West African nation’s states.

Ismail Alfa contributed reporting from Maiduguri, Nigeria.