ABUJA, Nigeria, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgent group in Nigeria affiliated with the Islamic State, has a new leader, IS announced.
Abu Musab al-Barwani, formerly Boko Haram’s spokesman, was identified in the weekly IS magazine Naba as its West African “governor.” The magazine did not mention the whereabouts of the previous Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau.
In a seven-year campaign to install a Muslim caliphate in Nigeria, over 20,000 people have been killed and millions have fled the country. The continued fighting provoked a humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations and other agencies delivering food and medicine and warning of calamity if more aid is not delivered. A concerted campaign in the past 18 months, by Nigerian forces and coalition troops from neighboring countries, has severely weakened Boko Haram and taken back much of the territory it previously conquered; the insurgent group’s response has been to take its fight to neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Little is known about Barnawi, who appeared in a 2015 Boko Haram video with a soft-spoken demeanor and his face blurred. The fate of his predecessor, Shekau, is equally mysterious. Known for his blustery, braggart manner, he has been declared killed by Nigerian forces several times, only to reappear in Boko Haram propaganda videos. He was most recently heard in an August 2015 announcement, saying that he remains alive. But he has not been seen since Boko Haram announced its alignment with IS in 2015.