WHILE the Islamic group, ISWAP, has not made any statement on its leader, al-Barnawi, the Nigerian Army has stated categorically that the jihadist has been killed.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, made the disclosure in Abuja on Thursday while briefing newsmen on the state of the war against insurgency.
“I can authoritatively confirm to you that al-Barnawi is dead. As simple as that. He is dead and remains dead,” he told newsmen without giving details on how or when the jihadist died.
Under his command, ISWAP became the dominant force among the country’s Islamic jihadist groups involved in a war over which the country has lost about 40,000 since it started about twelve years ago.
With hardly any doubt, the loss of Al-Barnawi is a big blow on ISWAP as it is coming at a time the group is gaining momentum after killing the commander of rival group, Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau earlier in the year.
al-Barnawi’s ISWAP separated from Boko Haram in 2016 and has, since then, demonstrated its ability to carry out large-scale military offences, including successful ambushes on the Nigerian Armed forces.
Reports by Reuters indicate that al-Barnawi may indeed be dead though it gave no indication of when, how or where. The reports say Vincent Foucher of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, an expert on the insurgent groups, comfirmed from credible sources that the jihadist was “wounded in August during a clash against Boko Haram fighters and had died later, possibly in September.”
Foucher, Reuters claims, said while it was hard to get certified in formation on the real situation, the report of “al-Barnawi’s death seemed plausible as the ISWAP leader had issued a number of lengthy audio recordings in May and June but had gone completely quiet since August.”
al-Barnawi is the third leader Islamist insurgent leader in West Africa to die this year, after Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, ISGS, in August and Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau in May.
al-Barnawi is the son of the founder of Boko Haram militant group, Mohammed Yusuf, killed in police custody in Maiduguri in 2009.