Boko Haram Leader Shekau Rejects Replacement by IS in Audio

  • Shekau makes announcement in audio recording on YouTube
  • Boko Haram is waging violent campaign to impose Islamic Law

Ibrahim Shekau, long-time leader of the Nigerian Islamist militant movement Boko Haram, rejected Islamic State’s public effort to replace him. Shekau declared allegiance to Islamic State last year.

Shekau made the announcement in a YouTube audio recording Thursday and described the new leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi as an infidel who will never earn his support. The authenticity of the 10-minute clip in Hausa and Arabic couldn’t be verified by Bloomberg News.

Al-Barnawi promised not to attack mosques or markets used by Muslims, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, citing an Islamic State newspaper.

Nigeria’s government described the attempted appointment as “cheap propaganda,” according to a statement Thursday citing Information Minister Lai Mohammed.

“Don’t believe the cheap propaganda by the global terrorist group ISIS, which has reportedly named a new leader for Boko Haram,” Mohammed said. “Our gallant military has put Boko Haram on the run and nothing will bring back the terrorists, not even the wishful thinking by ISIS.”

Boko Haram militants have waged a violent campaign since 2009 to impose their version of Islamic law in Africa’s most populous country of about 180 million people. From northeastern Nigeria, their attacks have spread to neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The group remains committed to its “stand to establish Sharia law,” Shekau said in his message.

While a leadership change may not affect the way Boko Haram operates, a shift from attacking mosques and markets may be “a desperate attempt to try and rally some people to the cause who’ve been deterred by Shekau’s habit of indiscriminate attacks,” Martin Roberts, London-based senior analyst at IHS Global Insight with focus on West Africa, said in a phone interview from London.

“There’s even a strong possibility that Boko Haram is going to be weakened through infighting because Shekau is clearly not going to step down with out a fight,” Roberts said.

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