ABUJA, Nigeria, Aug. 4 (UPI) — The leader of Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram insists he is still in charge, accusing an alleged successor of staging a coup against him.
A magazine published earlier this week by the Islamic State, which regards the Nigerian organization as its West African affiliate, referred to Abu Musab al-Barnawi as Boko Haram’s purported new leader. But a 10-minute audio message released Wednesday by Abubakar Shekau said he was still in charge.
Shekau accused Barnawi, who was previously Boko Haram’s spokesman, of attempting a coup against his leadership.
The message was Shekau’s first public pronouncement in a year, and suggests ideological differences within the Boko Haram hierarchy. Sources confirmed Shekau opposes Islamic State involvement in his militant group; in the message he denied hoarding food and ammunition, and engaging in reckless killing.
His authoritarian reputation includes bragging about his power and the killing of his own troops at the slightest evidence of misdeeds, the New York-based news website Sahara Reporters noted.
Boko Haram is responsible for thousands of deaths in its seven-year attempt to overthrow the Nigerian government and establish an Islamic caliphate. In 2015, the Institute for Economics and Peace ranked Boko Haram as the deadliest terror organization in the world.
In the past 18 months, Nigeria’s military, with the help of coalition troops from neighboring countries, have reclaimed much of the territory taken by the insurgent group.