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Split in Boko Haram terror group as Shekau reappears

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Shekau. (AFP Photo/)

Shekau. (AFP Photo/)

• It is propaganda, says government
• ‘Proliferation of arms fuels insurgency’

A crack may have occurred in the leadership of the Boko Haram terrorist group with the reappearance yesterday of its erstwhile leader, Abubakar Shekau who insisted that he was “still around.”

On Wednesday, the Islamic State (IS) announced the emergence of Abu Musab al-Barnawi, former spokesman of Boko Haram terror group, as the new leader of its dreaded Nigerian affiliate.

Shekau’s audio message, which clearly defied the IS directive, fuelled talk of a split within the jihadist group that has, for seven years, been holding the North Eastern part of Nigeria by the jugular.

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The Nigerian government has, however, dismissed the report that IS has appointed a new leader for Boko Haram, describing it as a cheap propaganda by the global terrorist group.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who made this known in a statement yesterday, insisted that the Nigerian military had put Boko Haram on the run, adding that nothing would bring back the terrorist.

“By the way, don’t believe the cheap propaganda by the global terrorist group ISIS, which has reportedly named a new leader for Boko Haram. Our gallant military has put Boko Haram on the run and nothing will bring back the terrorists, not even the wishful thinking by ISIS,’’ Mohammed said.

Also the Nigerian Military described the purported re-emergence of Shekau as a farce, saying, “the accent is not that of Shekau.”

The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar told The Guardian yesterday in Abuja that it was obvious that the terrorists were just engaged in another propaganda. “It is an audio that anybody can go out and record. It is definitely not Shekau by all analysis. One that is conversant with who the terrorist is, from his accent, will know.”

The DDI said it was just another propaganda of the already decimated group as it is obvious that the person behind the voice is not the subject. “The way he pronounces Hausa words alone will tell you that it is not the Shekau we know.

“The Abubakar Shekau that was parading himself as the leader of Boko Haram is in the next world, unless they have gone to trump up another face-saving propagandist. It should be disregarded. It is an audio message; they should bring a video so that people would see it.”

Shekau, who has led the Nigeria-based Islamist group since 2009 but has not been heard from since March, said in the 10-minute audio message: “People should know we are still around. We will never cause any discord among the people, we will live by the Koran. This is our stand and we remain in our capacity as Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad.”

But some sources confirmed that the voice is actually that of Shekau.

His voice was recognised by an AFP journalist familiar with previous messages he has posted on social media.

It was also confirmed as Shekau’s voice by Berlin-based jihadist expert Yan St-Pierre of the Modern Security Consulting Group (MOSECON), who said his message had laid bare divisions within the group.

“The person who posted on the Internet is a very reliable source. We knew that Boko Haram was divided on a strategic point of view, now their divisions are public,” he told AFP.

Shekau lamented in the audio: “They deceived me,” obviously taking aim at al-Barnawi and dismissing him as an infidel who condones living in an un-Islamic society without waging jihad.

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons is fuelling the violence of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, ECOWAS Commission, Mrs. Halima Ahmed, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at an experts’ meeting, lamented that Nigeria was yet to have a functional national commission on small arms, while encouraging the country to set up the commission.

According to her: “We in the ECOWAS region have advanced in the establishment and strengthening of national commission on small arms and light weapons based on the provision of the Article 24 of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their ammunition and other related materials.

“The cross-border and international nature of the insurgency and other security challenges, such as piracy and arms trade, informed our current partnership with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to work on inter-regional co-ordination on maritime and other security issues.”

In her remarks, Director, United Nations (UN) Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), Olatokunbo Ige, said Boko Haram has become the deadliest terrorist groups in the world.

She noted that Nigeria witnessed the highest increase in terrorist deaths than in any other country.

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The Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Switzerland in Nigeria, Daniel Cavegn, said at the event that the availability of small arms and light weapons fuels the culture of violence and undermines the security and stability of the entire ECOWAS region.

He said there was the need for strong and enhanced cross-border co-operation and commitment at all levels to combat trafficking of small arms and light weapons.

“ECOWAS, and within the region, every member-state plays a crucial role at the political and operational levels. Information exchange, intelligence sharing, border and customs control as well as internal and cross-border policing illustrate the importance of regional co-operation,” he further said.


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