The leader of an Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram may have been replaced and in his place, a new chief has been put by the group. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) as it is commonly known since its splinter from the Shekau-led Boko Haram has reportedly dropped Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi.
A previously unknown figure named Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar Albarnawi is said to have replaced Al-Barnawi, whose father Muhammad Yusuf founded Boko Haram in 2002. The name Al-Barnawi or variations of it derive from Arabic words meaning “The man from Borno,” a state in northeastern Nigeria.
Shekau had previously pledged allegiance to ISIS chief Abubakr al-Baghdadi in 2015 but IS recognized only Al-Barnawi as a leader. Al-Barnawi was considered only a figurehead, with the real power being held by his second-in-command, Mamman Nur.
Nur, who was the mastermind of the 2011 bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja which killed 26, was assassinated by more radical ISWAP commanders in August 2018 after he seemingly negotiated the return of 100 kidnapped school girls.
The change in leadership in ISWAP could mean a lot for ISIS-central seeing as reports have revealed as the group loses territory in Syria and Iraq, they have been looking at Africa’s Sahel region as a haven. And as such the replacement of the chief could be an elemental move to ensure the same.