About 18 members of the Boko Haram Islamist militant group and their families surrendered to Nigerian soldiers after clashes in the northern state of Borno between factions loyal to the group’s founder, Abubakar Shekau, and the new head Abu Musab Albarnawi.

“They are under custody of Monguno command and we believe the dual battle between Albarnawi and Shekau’s camps may have compelled them to sneak out and surrender,” Ali Mohammed, a member of a vigilante group in northeastern town of Monguno, said Wednesday by phone.

Nigeria’s military said it may have killed Shekau, the disputed leader of the Boko Haram, during an air strike on the Sambisa forest in Borno on Aug. 19. The Nigerian authorities have reported Shekau’s probable death at least twice before, including in 2014 and 2013.

Shekau took over the militant group in 2009, when it began an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people in a bid to impose its version of Islamic law on Africa’s most populous nation.

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