The Islamic State (IS) militant group has announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new Boko Haram leader.
Al-Barnawi, who was the spokesman for the Nigerian-based Islamists, is featured in the latest issue of an IS magazine.
The Arabic-language newspaper al-Nabaa yesterday identified Al-Barnawi as the new “Wali,” a title previously used to describe long-time leader Abubakar Shekau
It does not say what has become of the group’s former leader, 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.
Al-Barnawi has promised not to attack mosques in a change of tactic under his leadership.
Boko Haram has lost most of the territory it controlled 18 months ago.
Its seven-year insurgency has left 20,000 people dead, mainly in the Northeast.
In the interview in IS’s weekly Arabic magazine al-Naba, Al Barnawi said his group “remained a force to be reckoned with,” and said it was drawing new recruits.
He described the group’s battle as a war by Muslims against “apostates” and “crusaders”.
Analyst Jacob Zenn said the announcement indicates a coup by Boko Haram breakaway group, Ansaru, and follows a trend of extremist Islamic groups moving away from al-Qaida to the Islamic State.
Ansaru is known for kidnapping foreigners. It broke away from Boko Haram because it disagrees with the indiscriminate killing of civilians, especially Muslims.
- Little is known about Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, who appeared in a Boko Haram video in January 2015 as the group’s spokesman
- He wore a turban and his face was blurred out and it was filmed as a sit-down studio interview
- Unlike Abubakar Shekau, his delivery in the Hausa language was considered and softly spoken
- Mr Shekau was often filmed in the open, surrounded by fighters, loudly proclaiming his threats, victories and giving rambling ideological lectures
- However, Mr Barnawi pulled no punches, warning that towns, which resisted Boko Haram in its mission to create an Islamic state, would be flattened
- He also spoke of being against democracy and foreign education
- In his most recent magazine interview, he again objected to the name Boko Haram, by which local people call the group, as it means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa
- He maintained IS was still strong in the region and promised to continue fighting West African governments.