ISWAP broke away from Boko Haram.
The leader of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) jihadist group, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, is dead, according to Chief of Defence Staff Lucky Irabor.
ISWAP is the terrorist group that split from Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram.
Reports emerged earlier in the year that Shekau is himself dead, after blowing himself up as ISWAP commanders closed in on him following a leadership tussle.
ISWAP has not given any confirmation of al-Barnawi’s death and Nigeria’s army has claimed before to have killed jihadist commanders only for them to reappear.
“I can authoritatively confirm to you that al-Barnawi is dead. As simple as that. He is dead and remains dead,” Chief of Defence Staff Irabor told journalists, according to an AFP report.
There were no details on how al-Barnawi died or when he died.
Under al-Barnawi, ISWAP became the dominant jihadist force in Nigeria’s conflict, striking frequently at troops in an insurgency that has killed more than 40,000 since 2009.
Al-Barnawi’s loss would be blow to ISWAP’s structure just as it was consolidating, following Shekau’s death.
Since splitting from Boko Haram in 2016, ISWAP has shown resilience and has carried out large-scale ambushes on the military.
“Should al-Barnawi be dead, his death may not have too much impact on ISWAP because of how structured the group is,” Malik Samuel, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies, tells AFP.
“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,” he adds.
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.
He rose to prominence after breaking away from Boko Haram over differences with its commander Shekau.
Since Shekau’s death, al-Barnawi has consolidated ISWAP’s control in Nigeria’s northeast and the Lake Chad region.
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