The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said that the military was not in the least bit perturbed about the latest change of leadership in Boko Haram.
Wednesday, the BBC reported that Islamic State had named a new leader, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, for Boko Haram. Al-Barnawi, who was once the spokesman for the insurgent group, has replaced Abubakar Shekau. According to BBC, al-Barnawi was featured in the latest issue of an ISIS magazine. The magazine made no reference to Shekau. But DHQ spokesman, Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, said wednesday that the military was not interested in what happens in what he described as “nearly dead” Boko Haram terrorists, including a change of leadership or alliance with ISIS.
Abubakar said that the military was singularly focused on the complete destruction of the terror group, irrespective of leadership and administrative changes. He said: “The leadership change in Boko Haram, as purportedly stated, does not in any way bother us, as the group is nearly dead in Nigeria and other countries within the Lake Chad Basin. “So whether there is a change in leadership or not, we are sure of total annihilation of the group. “Our focus is to clear them from their hideouts which we have been doing through the ongoing Operation Crackdown and Operation Gama Aiki with the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
“It’s (leadership change) not anything to us and we will continue to reduce them to nothing.”
Abubakar said the military has been capturing members of the terror sect on “a daily basis, so the change is not anything to us”. He said the military was certain that Boko Haram was “in disarray and collapsing”. “So they are trying to behave like a dying person who will hold on to any thing in his desperation to stay alive. People should not take them seriously, as they no longer pose a threat. We dismiss this change of leadership as child’s play,” he added.
Shekau was last seen in a Boko Haram propaganda video in March 2015, one of many footages released in his years of leading a brutal campaign against Nigeria. In one of the videos, Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS, which was originally based in Syria and Iraq. ISIS has several offshoots now in other countries, including Libya. Al-Barnawi, who has been named as Boko Haram’s new leader, is something of a mystery. When he 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 former leader, 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, al-Barnawi pulled no punches, warning that towns which resisted Boko Haram in its mission to create an Islamic state would be flattened.
He also spoke of being against democracy and foreign education. In his most recent magazine interview, he again objected to the name Boko Haram, by which local people call the group, as it means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa. He maintained ISIS was still strong in the region and promised to continue fighting West African governments.
But as the identity of the head of Boko Haram was revealed, the Nigerian Army said yesterday that its troops with the assistance of civilian vigilantes, on routine checks, identified and arrested a high profile member of the sect. Army spokesman, Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman, said in statement: “On Tuesday, 2nd August 2016, at about 8.30 a.m., troops of Operation Lafiya Dole with the assistance of vigilantes, on routine checks, identified and arrested a high profile suspected Boko Haram terrorist, Mohammed Mohammed Zauro, at Sabon Gari, Damboa Local Government Area, Borno State.
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 recovered a Gionee brand of mobile phone handset and a fake SAIE/JIBWIS identification card to perfect his escape and the sum of N7,900.” Usman said the troops also intercepted another suspected Boko Haram terrorist, Lawal Aboi, along Damboa-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,” the army spokesman said.