Although the Nigerian military says it is investigating claims that Abubakar Shekau, the mastermind of Boko Haram, is injured, The Epoch Times learned on May 20 that he is dead.
The Islamic terrorist’s death by suicide blast late into the evening of May 19 was reported to The Epoch Times on May 20 by David Otto, a defense consultant with sources in the Nigerian military.
Shekau’s death was confirmed by The Wall Street Journal on May 21, citing conflict mediators, unnamed Nigerian officials, and intelligence shared by a West African spy agency.
“He died along with three of his henchmen after losing a battle with rival group Islamic State of West Africa Province [ISWAP],” Otto said in a statement to The Epoch Times while stationed in the neighboring nation of Cameroon. “He refused to surrender—several of his commanders had surrendered or were killed by the same group that split from his faction in 2016.”
The fundamentalist terrorist group was founded by Muhammed Yusuf, who died in 2009 while in police custody. Shekau emerged as his successor, launching a terror campaign that claimed more than 30,000 lives and saw thousands of civilians kidnapped for ransom.
Shekau’s group captured the attention of the West after the mass kidnapping of 300 girls at a private school in 2014.
Boko Haram declared affiliation with the ISIS terrorist group in March 2015, but was rebuffed by ISIS in favor of a breakaway faction within the group that took on the name of ISWAP. During the last four years, the better organized and outfitted ISWAP proved to be a more effective battlefield threat to the Nigerian army, military specialists have observed.
“This brings to tatters one of the most powerful and deadliest terrorist groups in the world—Boko Haram,” Otto said. “If anyone tries to succeed him, they will have to face the same wrath from the relatively more powerful and organized ISWAP faction. Besides, they won’t have a territory or stronghold to call their own as Boko Haram had the dreaded Sambisa Forest. Where his army took refuge is now under the banner of ISWAP. Shekau’s faction took the name of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda;’awati wal-Jihad (JAS).
“JAS will likely follow Abubakar Shekau to the grave, leaving only one major faction for the Nigerian army to deal with—ISWAP, and perhaps diehard renegades of JAS who will select to float around terrorizing civilians for survival.”
The death of Shekau—if finally proved—will launch ISWAP into the undisputed leadership role of Nigeria’s terror war under the banner of the Islamic State, Otto said.
“This means the likelihood of ISWAP getting more fighters and monopolizing jihadist forces in West Africa,” he said. “But it could create further distrust within the remainder of the senior JAS jihadist circles who believe that infighting destroys the already damaged reputation of both factions of Boko Haram.”
Months prior to his death, Shekau’s JAS was on the retreat after losing hundreds of combatants in battles with the Nigerian Army and the Chadian military in the region of Lake Chad, according to Nigerian media.
The ISWAP rival units cornered Shekau and his bodyguards on May 19 and killed or forced the surrender of more than 30 of his commanders, according to Otto. Shekau reportedly surrendered and entered into an hours-long negotiation in which he was ordered to swear allegiance to Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the top leader of ISWAP.
By most media accounts, his response was to commit suicide by detonating his suicide vest.
“His body will never be found, because it would only embarrass the ISWAP commanders,” Otto said.
Otto also noted that ISWAP’s public image is likely to be tarnished by Shekau’s death, as the current leader of ISWAP is the son of Boko Haram’s founding father, Muhammed Yusuf, whom Shekau succeeded as leader of JAS.
“ISWAP has instigated the death of the man who brought Boko Haram into Global recognition after kidnapping about 300 girls in Chibok in April 2014,” according to Otto.
But Shekau’s death doesn’t necessarily mean terror activity in West Africa will subside, according to one expert who spoke with The Epoch Times.
“ISWAP is about to scale up its activities,” according to Lagos-based Rev. Ladi Peter Thompson, a security specialist and advisor to the Christian Association of Nigeria. “Like the Fulani herdsmen militia, the Boko Haram is just another face of the terror hydra that can be discarded at will.”
Thompson is concerned that ISWAP and its arms suppliers in the Middle East and North Africa will stand empowered to overwhelm Nigeria’s military in a push toward making Africa’s wealthiest nation into a caliphate.
“The likely scenario is that ISWAP and her global backers are about to make a major move, and Nigeria is about to experience a major military onslaught,” he wrote to The Epoch Times in an email.
“The Nigerian government has been infiltrated with moles in high places, and it seems that the U.S. policy direction of the Biden administration is willing to incentivize the terrorists within our territories.
“Sensing the return of the Hilary Clinton agenda, the global terror intelligentsia may believe that the United States will not bat an eyelash when Nigeria is overrun.
“If we see great troop movements in West Africa headed for Nigeria in the weeks ahead plus heavy armaments, then we can conclude that the long-expected Armageddon has finally arrived.”