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IS terrorists name al-Barnawi as new leader of Boko Haram

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PHOTO:AFP

PHOTO:AFP

• It is of no effect, says Nigerian Army
• Troops arrest two suspects

The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group has announced the emergence of Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who was previously the spokesman of the Boko Haram insurgents, as the new leader of its deadly Nigerian affiliate.

According to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports quoting an interview in IS’s weekly Arabic magazine al-Naba, Barnawi said his group “remained a force to be reckoned with” and said it had been drawing new recruits. He described the group’s battle against West African states as a war fought by Muslims against “apostates” and “crusaders.”

Nothing was, however, said about the fate of the group’s former leader, Abubakar Shekau who took over after its founder, Muhammad Yusuf, died in the Nigeria 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.

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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.

Nigerian security forces have claimed many times that Shekau had been killed in one of the many encounters between them and the insurgents. He was last heard from in an audio message last August, saying he was alive and had not been replaced.

Since the renewed offensive against insurgency in the North East, Boko Haram has lost most of the territory it controlled 18 months ago, but recently the group has stepped up its attacks against regional security forces. A United Nations (UN) convoy was ambushed last week and on social media, the jihadist group has resumed its propaganda campaign.

In an attempt to unveil the new terrorist leader, the BBC reported: “Little is known about Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, who appeared in a Boko Haram video in January 2015 as the group’s spokesman. He wore a turban and his face was blurred out and it was filmed as a sit-down studio interview.

“Unlike Abubakar Shekau, his delivery in the Hausa language was considered and softly spoken. Shekau was often filmed in the open, surrounded by fighters, loudly proclaiming his threats, victories and giving rambling ideological lectures.

“However, Barnawi pulled no punches, warning that towns which resisted Boko Haram in its mission to create an Islamic state would be flattened.”

In a reaction to the announcement, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier-General Rabe Abubakar, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian said it was a mere propaganda that is of no effect on the counter-insurgency operations going on in the Northeast, and therefore cannot derail the focus to rout the insurgents and their agents from the country.

“Whether they have changed leadership or not, it does not affect the armed forces. What is important to us now is to remain focused, ensure that the remnants of the Boko Haram, some of whom are surrendering in droves, are eliminated.

“So the issue is not about who the leader is, it is how to finish the remnants. So the change does not in anyway affect our operations, neither has it derailed our focus. It will even ginger the troops to make sure that the work is completed.

“It is the desperation of a drowning man, he gropes for even his shadow, they already know they are on the losing side, so they are using every available propaganda to remain relevant. What we have achieved is not propaganda, the reality on the ground is that they are decimated.

“The change in leadership cannot affect the confidence of the troops as they are already in control of the situation.”

According to Abubakar, the mere change in leadership confirms the report that the military had killed Shekau, their leader who was last heard about in August last year.

Meanwhile, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, with the assistance of vigilantes in Borno State, arrested a high-profile suspected Boko Haram terrorist while patrolling the Biu-Damboa road on Tuesday morning.

The suspect, Mohammed Mohammed Zauro, was in possession of N7, 900 while fleeing to Birnin Kebbi in Kebbi State from Sabon Gari village, a farming and herding community in 137 kilometres south of Maiduguri, the state capital.

Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman disclosed this yesterday in a statement issued to newsmen in Maiduguri.

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He said that the high-profile suspect, was arrested while the troops were on routine checks and patrols along the 100-kilometre Damboa-Biu road.

The statement reads: “Preliminary investigation shows that the suspected terrorist kingpin was arrested as he was trying to flee to Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, from Sambisa Forest. The troops also recovered a Gionee brand of mobile telephone handset and a fake SAIE/JIBWIS identification card to perfect his escape, and the sum of N7, 900.

“Similarly, troops also intercepted another suspected Boko Haram terrorist, Lawal Aboi along Dambao-Bale road. According to him, he was on his way to voluntarily surrender to the troops in Damboa because he was tired of fighting for no just cause. Both suspects are being further interrogated.”


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