Shekau’s Audio Fuels Talk Of Split In Boko Haram

Boko Haram’s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau finally broke his silence yesterday to insist he was “still around” following reports that Islamic State had replaced him, but his message fuelled talk of a split within the jihadist group.

For months, speculation has been rife over the fate of Shekau, who has led the Nigeria-based Islamist group since 2009 but has not been heard from since March.

But yesterday, following a report suggesting he had been replaced, Shekau, according to AFP, released an audio message insisting he was still very much alive and in charge of the group, which last year had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State jihadists.

“People should know we are still around. We will never cause any discord among the people, we will live by the Koran,” Shekau said in a 10-minute audio message. “This is our stand and we remain in our capacity as Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad,” he said using the Islamic name for Boko Haram.

His voice was recognised by an AFP journalist familiar with previous messages he has posted on the 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,” he told AFP. “We knew that Boko Haram was divided on a strategic point of view, now their divisions are public,” he said.

Shekau’s audio message was released after IS on Tuesday published an interview with Sheikh Abu Musab al-Barnawi in its Al-Naba online weekly magazine in which he was introduced as Boko Haram’s new leader.
In the interview, Barnawi talks about the history of jihad in this region but makes no clear reference to Shekau.

St-Pierre said the message suggested Shekau was trying to retain his base of support within Boko Haram without compromising the commitment to IS.
“In the message, Shekau refers to Boko Haram under its previous name, but with some ISIS propaganda elements, as if he wanted to reassure its old combatants and base, without denying his commitment to (its leader Abu Bakr) al-Bagdadi,” he said.

Credit: Thisday