Nigerian military confirms death of leader of extremist group

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TOPSHOT - A member of the Nigerian Armed Forces Sniper Unit wearing a ghillie suit takes part in an exercise during the African Land Forces Summit (ALFS) military demonstration held at General Ao Azazi barracks in Gwagwalada on April 17, 2018. - The African Land Forces Summit (ALFS) is a weeklong seminar held in Nigeria, bringing together land forces from across Africa to discuss and develop cooperative solutions and improve transregional security and stability. (Photo by STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A member of the Nigerian Armed Forces Sniper Unit wearing a ghillie suit takes part in an exercise during the African Land Forces Summit (ALFS) military demonstration held at General Ao Azazi barracks in Gwagwalada on April 17, 2018. - The African Land Forces Summit (ALFS) is a weeklong seminar held in Nigeria, bringing together land forces from across Africa to discuss and develop cooperative solutions and improve transregional security and stability. (Photo by STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Nigerian military on Thursday confirmed the death of Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, top leader of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Nigeria-based extremist group in the country’s northeast region.

Lucky Irabor, Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, revealed this at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday but declined to say how the top terrorist leader died.

“I can authoritatively confirm to you that Abu Musab is dead. He is dead and remains dead,” Irabor said.

The ISWAP is an offshoot of the notorious Boko Haram group which has been trying to establish an Islamist state in northeast Nigeria since 2009, and has also extended its attacks to other countries in the Lake Chad Basin.

The confirmation was the first by Nigerian authorities since Al-Barnawi was reportedly ambushed and killed by the military in the country’s northeast region in late August.

Local media reported in mid-September that Al-Barnawi, the son of the late founder and spiritual leader of the Boko Haram group Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in an ambush during which four or five senior ISWAP leaders and many terrorists loyal to him were also killed in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state.

According to media reports, in 2016, Al-Barnawi was announced by the Islamic State(IS) as the new leader of their West African branch, one year after the then top leader of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau had sworn allegiance to the IS in March 2015.

Shekau rejected his demotion and the two split, with al-Barnawi moving his ISWAP fighters to the shores of Lake Chad, where they became the dominant insurgency.

In June this year, al-Barnawi announced in an audio recording that Shekau had died in May after detonating an explosive device while being pursued by ISWAP fighters following a battle.

However, Irabor did not confirm Shekau’s death at the press conference. Enditem

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