The Nigerian army claims that the leader of the West African branch of Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP), Abu Musab al-Barnawi, was killed. This was reported by news agencies Reuters and AFP on Thursday.
“I can say with certainty that Al-Barnawi is dead,” Nigerian army general Lucky Irabor told reporters at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja. He did not elaborate further on the cause of Al-Barnawi’s death, which can be regarded as a major victory for the government army. It should be noted that declarations of death of Islamic terrorist leaders have previously proved incorrect on several occasions.
Abu Musab al-Barnawi, born Habib Yusuf, is the son of Mohammed Yusuf. He founded the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram in 2002, and was captured by the Nigerian army in July 2009 and then shot dead by the police, who later claimed that Yusuf was trying to flee from a police station. His successor, Abubakar Shekau, was killed in May during clashes with a rival extremist group.
Shekau, under whose leadership bombings, murders and mass kidnappings occurred frequently, had also been declared dead several times before his real death. In contrast to Shekau, successor Al-Barnawi hardly appeared in the publicity.
Also read: The ruthless leader of Boko Haram is dead
Attacks and kidnappings
ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016 and is estimated to consist of several thousand fighters. The organization carries out regular attacks and is active in northeastern Nigeria, in the border area with neighboring Chad. In December 2019, for example, ISWAP killed eleven Christians held hostage. The massacre was allegedly carried out in revenge for the death of IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. He blew himself up with a bomb vest in October 2019 when US soldiers attacked his hideout in Syria.
Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, leader of Islamic State in the Sahara (ISGS), had been killed by French soldiers. According to Reuters, there have been increasing signs of contact between ISWAP and ISGS in recent years, although it is unclear how close that possible cooperation was.