October 14, (THEWILL) – The Nigerian Army high command has firmly confirmed the killing of Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, the militant leader of the notorious terrorist group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Rumours had been rife between August and September that Al-Barnawi, originally christened Habib Yusuf, the son of the original Founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, had been killed in unclear circumstances.
Mohammed Yusuf himself had been killed by Nigerian security operatives in 2009 around Maiduguri, Borno State.
Confirming the death of Al-Barnawi at a Thursday ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, the country’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, said the villain was dead and gone.
Irabor said: “I can authoritatively confirm to you that Abu Musab is dead. As simple as that, he is dead and remains dead.”
Earlier reports had indicated he died in August 2021, with different accounts alleging he had been killed by the Nigerian Army or by renegades within the ranks of ISWAP following an internal power struggle.
During his Aso Rock briefing, Irabor failed to shed light on the context of the terrorist’s death.
Abu Musab al-Barnawi had been an active member of his father’s group, Boko Haram, from 2002 to 2015, before joining ISWAP in 2015 and rose to be its leader until 2021, when he died.
He was the eldest surviving son of the founder of the terrorist group.
According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, born Habib Yusuf, was a Nigerian Islamic militant who served as the leader of the Islamic State’s branch in West Africa (ISWAP) between August 2016 and March 2019, and again around May 2021.
Before pledging allegiance to ISIL, al-Barnawi was the spokesperson for Boko Haram; and on 27 January 2015, he released a propaganda video as the spokesman for Boko Haram.
On 7th March 2015, former Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, released an audio message in which he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State.
Abubakar Shekau was reaffirmed as the leader of the branch in an ISIL video released in April 2016. On 21 June 2016, Reuters reported Marine Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser as saying, “Several months ago, about half of Boko Haram broke off to a separate group because they were not happy with the amount of buy-in, if you will, from Boko Haram into the ISIL brand.”
Shekau ignored ISIL orders to stop using children as suicide bombers and this fractionalised the body.
However, the fracture ultimately resulted in the re-emergence of a separate faction, generally called “Boko Haram,” led by Shekau, and opposed to ISIL and ISWAP.
On 3rd August 2016, the Islamic State reported in the 41st issue of its newspaper al-Naba, that Abu Musab al-Barnawi had been appointed the new leader of their West African branch.
To this announcement, Shekau declared that he and his followers were in the right, and “[we] will not accept any emissary except the one we can attest he is sincere and truthful for Allah and His cause.”
Al-Barnawi promised in an interview with al-Naba that he would not target mosques or markets in northern Nigeria.
The difference in these approaches is due to Barnawi considering the general population in the region to be Muslim, whereas Shekau considered them to be non-believers.
On 27th February 2018, Al-Barnawi was made a “Specially Designated National” by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control.
In March 2019, rumours began to circulate that Abu Musab had been replaced by Abu Abdullah Idris ibn Umar al-Barnawi as the Governor of ISWAP.
Neither the Islamic State’s top leadership, nor members of its West African branch officially commented on the claims, resulting in speculations about the reported dismissal.
Some argued that he had possibly been overthrown as part of an internal power struggle, while the Multinational Joint Task Force claimed that he had been fired by the Islamic State’s top command due to a number of defeats of his forces at the hands of Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF).
Around 16th May, ISWAP released an audio declaring that Abu Musab al-Barnawi had been reinstated by ISIL’s central command as “caretaker” leader of ISWAP.
With al-Barnawi restored to overall command, ISWAP proceeded to overrun Sambisa Forest, inflicting a major defeat on the Shekau faction and resulting in Abubakar Shekau’s death.
Al-Barnawi consequently declared Boko Haram dissolved, and Shekau dead, condemning him as “someone who committed unimaginable terrorism.”
Soon after, ISWAP’s structure was reformed, and al-Barnawi was appointed head of the ISWAP’s shura (a powerful consultative assembly) and commander of Sambisa Forest.