The Islamic State militant group on Wednesday announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi as its West African affiliate ‘Boko Haram’s new leader.
Boko Haram’s elusive leader Abubakar Shekau said in an audio message on Thursday that he is very much around despite his reported ouster as the leader of the Nigeria-based jihadist group by the Islamic State (IS).
“People should know we are still around. We will never cause any discord among the people, we will live by the Koran,” Shekau said in a 10-minute audio message.
“This is our stand and we remain in our capacity as Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad,” he said using the Islamic name for the hardline jihadist group.
Shekau in the audio message in Arabic and Hausa said he was deceived, but he will never stray from the ideology of the Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad which he said had a basis in the Quran.
His audio message was released in response to reports that he had been purportedly replaced by Sheikh Abu Musab al-Barnawi, a former IS spokesman.
Shekau’s message is coming after a year of silence which clearly confirmed the ideological differences and friction in Boko Haram hierarchy and failure to resolve their differences, a situation which might have led to the Islamic State declaring Abu Musab al-Banawi as the new leader of the deadly sect.
In the latest edition of IS’s online weekly magazine Al-Naba, which was published on Tuesday, there was an interview with Barnawi in which he was introduced as Boko Haram’s new leader
In March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to IS.
But Shekau dismissed Barnawi as an infidel who condoned living in an un-Islamic society without waging jihad.
The shadowy leader’s absence in recent months has sparked speculation about his fate and whether or not he had been deposed as leader.
Shekau maintained that nothing would deter the sect from pursuing it’s cause even if they are called ‘kwawarij’ meaning those that opposed arbitration as a means to chose a new leader.
He became Boko Haram leader after Nigerian security forces killed the group’s founding chief Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, sparking an insurgency that has left 20,000 people dead and forced 2.6 million people to flee their homes.
Boko Haram has been pegged back by an aggressive fightback from the Nigerian military since January 2014, losing territory and its capacity to mount conventional attacks.