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Shekau reappears, says he is still Boko Haram leader

Boko Haram’s disputed leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed he is still in charge of the Nigeria-based the terror group.

Shekau, whose whereabouts are unknown, made the claims after the Islamic State (Isis) terror group, Boko Haram’s ally, named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new leader.

However, Shekau, released an audio message in Arabic and Hausa, one of the main language spoken in northern Nigeria, accusing al-Barnawi of trying to stage a coup against him.

“I want the world to know that we are still holding our ideology and tied with the Quran, we will not derail and will not revolt but will continue to remain in the cause of Allah. Following Prophet SAW is compulsory for us, and we will follow it to the end,” Shekau said in the recording.

“This is our stand, and we are still in the cause of Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad [Boko Haram] and Allah will help us. May Allah strengthen us to remain in this cause.”

Al-Barnawi was Boko Haram’s spokesperson until he and other members defected to form the Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Lands (Ansaru) group in 2013. The splinter operates in north-eastern Nigeria and, unlike Boko Haram, does not attack Muslim civilians and does not force women and children to carry out suicide bombing missions.

Al-Barnawi appeared in a January 2015 Boko Haram video as the group’s spokesperson. A few months later, Boko Haram was believed to have released a video featuring Shekau.

However, the unusual poor quality of the footage raised suspicions over its authenticity. Furthermore, the video was only shared on YouTube, rather than on Twitter accounts affiliated with Boko Haram’s ally, Daesh.

Why was Shekau replaced?

In 2015, rumours spread that Shekau had been killed or replaced as the leader has not made a verified video appeareance for the past year. The rumours could undermine the group’s operation and loyalty of other cells.

Shekau is known for preferring Boko Haram’s autonomy from foreign jihadist groups.

The fact that some Boko Haram members left the group to form other splinters has cast doubt over Shekau’s leadership.

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