As the saying goes “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword”. Abubakar Shekau is dead. Who is Abubakar Shekau? Abubakar Shekau is the leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram.
In an audio obtained by news agencies, the Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) said Shekau died detonating explosives on himself after a battle between the two groups. In the audio recording ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi is heard saying “Shekau died around May 18 after detonating an explosive device when he was pursued by ISWAP fighters following a battle. Abubakar Shekau, God has judged him by sending him to heaven,”
Neither Boko Haram nor the Nigerian government have confirmed his death. Previously Shekau has been reported killed on several occasions over the last 12 years, including in announcements by the military, only to later appear in a video post.
Boko Haram grabbed headlines worldwide with its 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, sparking a global campaign for their return dubbed #BringBackOurGirls.
Around 100 of the Chibok Girls are still missing, and some are thought to have died in captivity. Shekau led the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground Islamic sect in 2009 to a full-fledged insurgency, killing, kidnapping and looting its way across northeast Nigeria. The group has killed more than 30,000 people, forced around 2 million people to flee their homes and spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
ISWAP was previously part of Boko Haram before its split five years ago, pledging allegiance to Islamic State. The schism was caused by religious ideological disagreements over the killing of civilians by Boko Haram, to which ISWAP objected.
If the news is confirmed to be true Shekau death would spell the end for Boko Haram which with looming division among Shekau’s followers on whether to join Iswap now or fight Iswap. Boko Haram has lost territories to Iswap since split.