Nigerian military confirms death of ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi


Leader of the jihadist group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Abu Musab al-Barnawi, was killed on Thursday, as revealed by the Nigeria’s senior military commander.

ISWAP has not confirmed al-death, Barnawi’s and the Nigerian army has previously claimed to have killed jihadist commanders only to have them return.

“I can assure you that al-Barnawi is no longer alive.” It’s that simple. General Lucky Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff, told reporters, “He is dead and will remain dead.”

He gave no specifics about al-death, Barnawi’s including how and when he died.

Al-Barnawi’s loss would be blow to ISWAP’s structure just as it was consolidating since the death of rival Boko Haram commander Abubakar Shekau earlier this year during infighting between the factions.

But since splitting with Boko Haram in 2016, the group has shown its resilience and carried out large-scale ambushes on the military just in the last several weeks.

“Should al-Barnawi be dead, his death may not have too much impact on ISWAP because of how structured the group is,” said Malik Samuel, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies.

“Since the 2016 split, ISWAP has had about five leadership changes but the group has maintained its consistency in launching deadly and successful attacks against security forces.”

Al-Barnawi is the son of the founder of the Boko Haram militant group, Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009 in Maiduguri.

But the ISWAP commander rose to prominence after breaking away from Boko Haram over differences with its commander Shekau, who according to security sources killed himself in May rather than face capture by his rivals.

Since Shekau’s death, security sources say, al-Barnawi had consolidated ISWAP’s control in Nigeria’s northeast and the Lake Chad region but pockets of Boko Haram loyalists have been fighting back.

Last month, ISWAP fighters killed 18 Nigeria security personal in an ambush in northeast Borno state using roadside bombs and rockets in one of the deadliest assaults this year.

A week later another eight soldiers were killed when ISWAP militants opened fire with rockets on another convoy also in Borno.

But Boko Haram jihadists also launched an attack last month on ISWAP militants on the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, ISWAP’s bastion, seizing a strategic island, according to fishermen and a security source.

Since Shekau’s death in his Sambisa forest enclave, ISWAP has been fighting Boko Haram remnants who have refused to pay allegiance.

Hundreds of Boko Haram members have also since surrendered to the army along with families and children.

More than two million people have been displaced by Nigeria’s conflict since it began 2009, and the violence has spread over the borders to Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

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