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Abu Musab al-Barnawi named as new Boko Haram leader

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Abu Musab al-Barnawi named as new Boko Haram leader

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has announced that its West African affiliate Boko Haram has a new leader.

Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who was previously spokesman for the Nigerian-based Islamists, is featured in the latest issue of an IS magazine.

It does not say what has become of the group’s former leader Abubakar Shekau.

He was last heard from in an audio message last August, saying he was alive and had not been replaced – an IS video released in April said the same.

WHO ARE BOKO HARAM?

Boko Haram, which has lost most of the territory it controlled 18 months ago, is fighting to overthrow Nigeria’s government.

Its seven-year insurgency has left 20,000 people dead, mainly in the country’s north-east.

Mr Shekau took over as the group’s leader after its founder, Muhammad Yusuf, died in Nigerian police custody in July 2009.

Under his leadership Boko Haram became more radical, carried out more killings and swore allegiance to IS in March 2015.

In numerous videos, Mr Shekau taunted the Nigerian authorities, celebrating the group’s violent acts including the abduction of the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014.

Nigeria’s army has claimed to have killed him on several occasions.

IS BOKO HARAM REPOSITIONING ITSELF?

Boko Haram appeared to be on the back foot following a military campaign by the Nigerian army and its allies from neighbouring countries. 

This raised questions over whether the IS link had been of any benefit.

But recently the group has stepped up its attacks against regional security forces. 

A UN convoy was also ambushed last week in north-eastern Nigeria. 

Even on social media, the jihadist group has resumed its propaganda campaign.

The increase in attacks could worsen the humanitarian situation around the Lake Chad region, where tens of thousands of people remain in miserable conditions in overcrowded camps.

Aid agencies also warn that children are dying there in large numbers from malnutrition.

BOKO HARAM AT A GLANCE:

Abubakar Shekau used to identified himself as “governor” of the West Africa Province of the Islamic State group.

Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language.

• Launched military operations in 2009

• Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls

• Joined so-called Islamic State, calls itself IS’s “West African province”

• Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate

• Regional force has retaken most territory last year  

[BBC]

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