By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service, who was born in Nigeria
ABUJA, NIGERIA (ANS – August 4, 2016) — The disputed leader of Boko Haram has said he is still in charge of Nigeria’s militant Islamist group despite a statement by so-called Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, that he had been replaced.
Abubakar Shekau denounced the IS declaration that Abu Musab al-Barnawi was now leader.
“Shekau accused al-Barnawi of trying to stage a coup against him,” said the BBC.
Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow Nigeria’s government and establish an Islamic State in the north, the region of the country where I was born to British missionary parents.
In the last 18 months it has lost most of the territory it had controlled after being pushed back by an offensive by the forces of Nigeria and its neighbors.
Boko Haram had particularly been targeting Christians, church, and schoolchildren in its barbaric campaign of terror.
The BBC went on to say that Shekau was last heard from in an audio message last August, saying he was alive and had not been replaced – an IS video released in April said the same.
In a 10-minute audio message in both Arabic and Hausa, Shekau appeared to distance Boko Haram from IS, but still called its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “caliph.”
He said that some in Boko Haram had stopped him communicating with al-Baghdadi.
“I was asked to send my ideology in writing to the caliph but it was manipulated by some people in order to achieve their own selfish interests,” he added, describing a coup attempt against him.
He said he had sent eight different letters to IS leaders but they did not act on them, only to hear the news that he had been replaced.
He then described al-Barnawi and his followers as “polytheist*.”
Nasidi Yahaya of BBC Africa, based in Abuja, said: “Boko Haram has split before but this is the most serious division to date. Abubakar Shekau’s outburst clearly shows that there are deep disagreements, which could translate into clashes between the foot soldiers loyal to the two leaders.
“It is also a sign of the weakness of the group, possibly foreshadowing an eventual collapse.
“Military officials say the split is an indication that the group is breathing its last.
“But some security analysts caution that the internal wrangling could make it more deadly and unpredictable.”
He added: “Nigeria and the other regional forces will now need to turn this factionalism to their advantage.”
Shekau had been accused of hoarding food and ammunition and also of driving away IS military advisers.
The BBC’s Abuja bureau editor Naziru Mikailu says this split is likely to have a major impact on the way the group operates and could be a turning point in the fight against the insurgents.
Shekau took over as the group’s leader after its founder, Muhammad Yusuf, died in Nigerian police custody in July 2009.
Under his leadership Boko Haram became more radical, carried out more killings and swore allegiance to IS in March 2015.
Boko Haram at a glance (from the BBC):
* Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education
* Launched military operations in 2009
* Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls
* Joined so-called Islamic State, calls itself IS’s “West African province”
* Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
* Regional force has retaken most territory
In numerous videos, Shekau taunted the Nigerian authorities, celebrating the group’s violent acts, including the abduction of the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014.
Nigeria’s army has claimed to have killed him on several occasions, and he has not appeared in a video since Boko Haram aligned itself with IS.
Note: Having been born in Nigeria, I am hoping and praying that we will soon see the complete collapse of this vicious terror group that has been causing so much havoc in the land of my birth.
* Polytheism, the belief in many gods. Polytheism characterizes virtually all religions other than Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which share a common tradition of monotheism, the belief in one God. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/polytheism).
Photo captions: 1) Boko Haram troops in training. 2) Some of the missing Chibok schoolgirls. 3) Boko Haram victims. 4) Dan Wooding pictured shortly after his birth with his mother, Anne Wooding, at Vom Christian Hospital, Nigeria.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. He also has one weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California.
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