The supremacy battle between Abubakar Shekau, ex-leader of Boko Haram, and Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the anointed of Islamic State (IS) and son of late founder Mohammed Yusuf, has led to a series of intra-sect killings.
According to Daily Trust, 10 people — described by locals as “associate Boko Haram members” — were recently killed Tumur in, a sleepy community along the Nigeria-Niger border, by insurgents for allegedly shifting their loyalty from Shekau to al-Barnawi.
The insurgents, the paper reported, crossed to the community from villages around Malam Fatori in Abadam local government area of Borno state to slit the throat of the 10 victims, who were accused of shifting their loyalty from Shekau to al-Barnawi.
“When the terrorists besieged Tumur, they told the locals, who were mostly Nigerians taking refuge there, not to panic but warned that so and so persons must be produced to face the wrath of their betrayal,” Ahmed Khalid, a resident of Abadam who is now taking refuge in Maiduguri, said of the first reported intra-group rivalry killing.
“From my findings, the 10 were supplying foodstuff to the insurgents who lived in cluster of camps along the Nigerian border with Niger. But they suddenly stopped the supplies, leaving the terrorists in hunger and deprivation in the midst of constant offensive by the Nigerian security forces. This was why they were trailed and killed.”
But a resident, Aisami Modu, said they were killed because they shifted their loyalty from the camp of Shekau to that of his archrival, al-Barnawi.
“The problem started shortly after the Boko Haram split, and those 10 people, who were traders and known to almost everyone in surrounding communities, were loyal to Boko Haram, which is why we called them ‘associate members,’” he said.
“They used to supply food, fuel, medicine and cloths to the terrorists, even though they didn’t fight for them. But the Shekau camp got angry when they shifted their loyalty to the other camp; that was why they were killed.”
In August, IS said its terror affiliate in Nigeria, Boko Haram, had appointed al-Barnawi as its new leader.
Two days later, an apparently displeased Shekau said he was deposed because he opposed one of IS’s principles. But he said he was still around, and there was no going back in the Jihad.
“The content of my message goes thus. We have heard news going round and attributed to people we had earlier pledge allegiance to. Even though we are not against them based on the message we heard in the world radio, we are still on our ideology,” he said in an audio message.
“In the first place, we sat and I was deceived, they said I should write my ideology to be taken if there is a mistake they will point out and bring back. They now deceived me, and it is based on some authorities and today I found out that there is one who is following principles of the infidels, which they want me to follow.
“We know those we differ with, and I have written on this long ago. All we wrote have been documented with me, some eight pages and some nine pages stating their kind of ideology, because I stated it clear that I am against the principle where someone will dwell in the society with the infidels without making public his opposition or anger against infidels publicly as it is stated in the Quran.
“Anyone doing such can’t be a real Muslim thick and thin. This is what our ideology proved. And that is where I am, to them a Muslim can dwell in the society and do his marketing compromising core foundations. 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.
“This is our stand, and we are still in the cause of Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad and Allah will help us…. We are still members of Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad, no matter what they call us, we remain what we are.”
Since Shekau’s message, loyalists of the two factions have attacked one another, with Kolo Kuroskawwa, a vigilante, saying five fighters loyal to Shekau were killed last week in a battle on the outskirts of Monguno.
Although the Nigerian military has dismissed the reported division as a “drama” being staged by the group to remain afloat, and has vowed to crush the insurgents under any guise, other sources said at least 18 Boko Haram fighters from the bushes around Monguno surrendered to the army, together with their families, because of the infighting.
“There is serious disarray now, and most of the Boko Haram fighters are apparently confused,” Kuroskawwa said.
“Those loyal to Shekau are being trailed by the other faction and vice versa. It is now killing, killing and killing.
“And you know that there are some Boko Haram fighters that were forcefully conscripted; they are the ones that are now repenting and taking advantage of the dispute to surrender themselves to the Nigerian army.”
Analysts expect the rivalry to break the spine of Boko Haram, which was ranked in 2015 by the Global Terrorism Index as the deadliest terrorist organisation on earth, after accounting for 6,644 deaths in 2014, compared with IS’s 6,073.