In-fighting has broken out in Boko Haram after the Islamic State group announced a new leader of its Nigerian affiliate, according to reports in the country’s remote northeast. IS said last month that Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf, had replaced Abubakar Shekau at the head of the designated terrorist organisation.
But Shekau then insisted he was still in charge of the Islamist group, whose insurgency has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009 and forced more than 2.6 million from their homes. Sources in northeast Nigeria now say there have been deadly skirmishes between the two factions, even as Nigeria’s military seeks to finally rout the rebels in a sustained counter-offensive. Last Thursday, several fighters from Shekau’s camp were said to have been killed in two separate gun battles with IS-backed Barnawi gunmen in the Monguno area of Borno state near Lake Chad. Nigeria’s military declined to comment on the reported in-fighting when contacted by AFP. Mele Kaka, who lives in the area, told AFP: “The Barnawi faction launched an offensive against the Shekau faction who were camped in the villages of Yele and Arafa. “In Yele, the assailants killed three people from the Shekau camp, injured one and took one with them, while several were killed in Arafa,” he said by telephone from the state capital, Maiduguri. The attack prompted residents of Arafa to flee, he added. Fighters from Barnawi camp had the previous day attacked gunmen loyal to Shekau in Zuwa village in nearby Marte district, killing an unspecified number, Kaka said. “The Barnawi fighters told villagers after each attack that they were fighting the other camp because they had derailed from the true jihad and were killing innocent people, looting their property and burning their homes,” he went on. “They said such acts contravene the teachings of Islam and true jihad.”