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Boko Haram Leader Really Did Blow Himself Up, Audio Message Says

DAKAR, Senegal — The head of Nigeria’s best-known terrorist group, Boko Haram, has been reported lifeless many instances earlier than.

But now proof that this time he would possibly actually be lifeless has emerged by way of an audio message, apparently recorded by the pinnacle of a rival extremist group.

In it, the chief of Islamic State West Africa Province, referred to as ISWAP, appeared to verify that Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s violent and erratic chief, killed himself somewhat than be taken prisoner in May.

“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the hereafter than on earth,” the voice within the recording says. “He killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive.”

Mr. Shekau was finest recognized for the kidnapping of a whole lot of schoolgirls from a boarding college in Chibok in 2014. But his fighters kidnapped, killed, raped and robbed many hundreds extra, and despatched untold numbers of Nigerians to their deaths as suicide bombers. Millions have been displaced within the area because of the violence.

The loss of life of Mr. Shekau, if true, marks the tip of a brutal period for northeast Nigeria and its neighboring international locations within the Lake Chad area.

But it might additionally signify the start of a brand new period, by which ISWAP takes new territory after eliminating its chief rival, and amps up confrontations with the Nigerian state and its army. ISWAP splintered from Boko Haram, reportedly partly due to Mr. Shekau’s violence in opposition to Muslim civilians.

ISWAP has these days posed the higher risk to the Nigerian army, which is stretched as it’s deployed to combat varied crises in nearly each one of many West African nation’s states. ISWAP has pledged allegiance to ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In late May, experiences trickled out that closely armed ISWAP members had arrived at Mr. Shekau’s hide-out within the Sambisa forest. When he realized that there was no strategy to escape, he detonated a suicide vest he was sporting, the experiences mentioned.

The Nigerian army, which has largely retreated to garrison cities within the northeast somewhat than attempting to manage the countryside, mentioned it was investigating. It is extraordinarily troublesome to verify Mr. Shekau’s loss of life definitively, and he has been falsely reported as lifeless earlier than — by some counts, eight instances.

The audio was shared with investigative journalist Ahmad Salkida, who is understood to have data of Boko Haram and ISWAP exercise, and who revealed an article about it on Humangle, the information web site he co-founded. The voice sounds the identical as that in earlier recordings attributed to Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the chief of ISWAP and the son of Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf.

In the audio, the voice, which speaks within the Kanuri language, says that ISWAP troopers had been instructed to “take urgent action” in opposition to Mr. Shekau by “Amirul Muminin,” referring to the chief of ISIS, in line with Mr. Salkida.

ISWAP fighters engaged Mr. Shekau in gunfire, after which he ran away and hid within the bush for 5 days, the audio mentioned. But the fighters tracked him down.

“Our fighters sacrificed their lives and were in a state of fear, thinking that it was an impossible mission to achieve,” the message mentioned. “He was actually caught unawares.”

Ismail Alfa contributed reporting from Maiduguri, Nigeria.