Military leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi has died, but Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) has not confirmed it.
The leader of the Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) militia has died, according to a Nigerian military chief.
Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of the founder of Nigeria’s Boko Haram militia, is said to have died on Thursday.
“I can assure you that al-Barnawi is dead. It’s as simple as that. He’s dead and he’s still dying,” Chief of Defense Staff General Lucky Irabor told reporters, without elaborating on how al-Barnawi died.
ISWAP, an ISIL (ISIS) branch, has not confirmed the death of Barnawi and Nigerian troops have said they have killed military commanders in the past.
Al-Barnawi became famous after parting ways with Boko Haram in 2016 in a dispute with their leader, Abubakar Shekau, who died earlier this year in a clash between the two groups.
The Nigerian military has issued a statement saying Shekau was killed or seriously injured in recent years, before exploding his explosive device during an attack on ISWAP in May.
Since Shekau’s death, al-Barnawi has joined forces with ISWAP in northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region but Boko Haram militants have been fighting.
More than 40,000 people have died in the Nigerian war and another two million have been displaced by the violence.
Born Habib Yusuf, al-Barnawi is believed to be the eldest son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf.
Yusuf died at the hands of police in 2009 and Shekau, who was his deputy at the time, was elected the new leader of the group.
Al-Barnawi spoke on behalf of Boko Haram but often clashed with Shekau. He condemned Boko Haram’s heinous policies, including the use of children as suicide bombers and the proliferation of mosques.
In 2014, the Boko Haram arrest of 276 girls at a school in northeastern Chibok shocked the world and shocked many.
Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2015 and the group called it ISWAP. But some of his followers, unhappy with his leadership, parted ways with Shekau’s army.
Under the leadership of al-Barnawi, he was recognized by ISIL and retained the ISWAP name, while Shekau remained the commander of the group that also mentioned the original name of the army, Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, or JAS.
ISWAP, whose main target is the Nigerian military, has grown significantly in recent years, with 3,500-5,000 fighters covering 1,500-2,000 in the Shekau-led group, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
The two groups have been embroiled in a long-running feud for several reasons, with hundreds of their members reportedly killed in the initial fighting.