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Boko Haram leader ‘kills self’ in fight with rival jihadists

  • Published at 05:17 pm June 7th, 2021
Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau
File photo: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau holds a weapon in an unknown location in Nigeria in this still image taken from an undated video obtained on January 15, 2018 Reuters

Boko Haram has not yet officially commented on the death of their leader while the Nigerian army said it was investigating the claim

Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau killed himself in a fight against rival jihadist fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) according to audio AFP obtained from the group on Sunday, two weeks after reports emerged that he had died.

His death marks a major shift in Nigeria's 12-year-old jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced around two million in the northeast. 

Boko Haram has not yet officially commented on the death of their leader while the Nigerian army said it was investigating the claim. 

“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the hereafter to getting humiliated on Earth. He killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive,” said a voice resembling that of ISWAP leader Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, speaking in the Kanuri language.

The audio, which was not dated, was given to AFP by the same source who conveyed previous messages from the group.

ISWAP described in the audio how it sent fighters to Boko Haram's enclave in the Sambisa forest, that they found Shekau sitting inside his house and engaged him in a firefight.

“From there he retreated and escaped, ran and roamed the bushes for five days. However, the fighters kept searching and hunting for him before they were able to locate him,” the voice said.

After finding him in the bush, ISWAP fighters urged him and his followers to repent, the voice added, but Shekau refused and killed himself.

“We are so happy,” the voice said, describing Shekau as “the big troublemaker, persecutor and destructive leader of the nation.”

ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016, objecting to Shekau's indiscriminate targeting of Muslim civilians and use of women suicide bombers.