Shekau died around May 18 after detonating an explosive device when he was pursued by ISWAP fighters after a battle, a man claiming to be ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi said in an audio recording.
“Abubakar Shekau, God condemned him by sending him to heaven,” he can be heard saying. Two people familiar with Al-Barnawi told Reuters that the voice of the recording was the voice of the ISWAP leader.
A Nigerian intelligence report shared by a government official and Boko Haram researchers also says Shekau is dead.
“Islamic State” is consolidating the whole area, the Lake Chad area and (Shekau Fortress), “said Bulama Bukarti, an analyst specializing in Boko Haram at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
“ISWAP had made Shekau a problem and he was the only person they wanted removed,” Bukarti said of the Islamic State’s attempt to attract Boko Haram commanders and fighters.
Shekau’s death could lead to an end to the violent rivalry between the two groups, which will allow the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) to take over Boko Haram fighters and consolidate its detention in northeastern Nigeria, political analysts say.
This would allow ISWAP to focus on the government and the military, whose military efforts are weakening.
Shekau “killed himself immediately”
The Boko Haram leader has reportedly been assassinated several times in the past 12 years, including in military reports, only to appear later in a video.
In the audio recording, the man, identified as al-Barnawi, said his fighters searched for the military leader on the orders of the Islamic State leadership and fought the Boko Haram rebels until Shekau fled.
ISWAP is stalking him and offering him a chance to repent and join them, he said.
“Shekau would rather be humiliated in the afterlife than humiliated on earth, and he committed suicide immediately by detonating an explosive,” he said.
Boko Haram grabbed headlines around the world with the abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls from the city of Chibok in 2014, sparking a global campaign for their return called #BringBackOurGirls, backed by Michelle Obama’s peers.
About 100 of the Chibok girls are still missing, and some are believed to have died in captivity.
Shekau led the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground Islamic sect in 2009 to a full-fledged insurgency, killing, kidnapping and looting its way into northeastern Nigeria.
The group killed more than 30,000 people, forced about 2 million people to flee their homes and caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
ISWAP was previously part of Boko Haram before it split five years ago, promising allegiance to Islamic State. The split was caused by religious and ideological differences over the killing of civilians by Boko Haram, which ISWAP objected to.