Uncertainty remains over the death of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Jas (Boko Haram), in the clashes on Wednesday 19 May. But this deal reveals the open war waged by this organization and the Islamic State group in this region of Nigeria. Vincent Foucher, a researcher at CNRS, returns to this rivalry between the two jihadist groups in the Sahel.
On Wednesday, May 19, the local branch of the Islamic State carried out a major offensive in the Sambisa forest, a refuge for Abubakar Shekau and his men. Jas’ leader was reportedly seriously injured, and some sources even claimed he was dead. No confirmation, neither from his movement, Jas – historically Boko Haram – from the Islamic State, or from the Nigerian authorities. But caution remains in order. It would not be not the first time that his death be announced.
Also read Nigeria: uncertainty over the fate of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau
While waiting to see more clearly, this conflict between the two Islamist groups highlights this rivalry between them. Why did the men from the Islamic State group in West Africa kill or try to kill Boko Haram leaders? A question that David Baché asked Vincent Foucher, researcher on Nigeria and Boko Haram at CNRS and at Laboratoire les Afriques dans le monde.
The people of Shekau launched attacks in areas controlled by people from the second faction (…) and this was probably part of the reason for the decision to go on the offensive.
NIGERIA _SON MORGON V. Foucher Rivalry Boko
Abubakar Shekau has always been the subject of controversy within the movement, especially because he was on a very hard line which especially believes that not all Muslims join the movement are at the bottom of the faith and can be looted, killed and reduced in slavery. And a whole series of tactics that Shekau used, suicide bombings in markets, in mosques, aroused controversy in the organization. They really broke out in 2016, when the movement was split in two. The divisions managed to retain official recognition of ISIS, but ISIS was a little pissed. He introduced some form of ceasefire, and in fact, what happened between 2016 and the latest attack was that the people of Shekau launched attacks in areas controlled by the people on the other side. Faction, Iswap [le groupe Etat islamique en Afrique de l’Ouest]to plunder civilians or capture them, to free them. Iswap fighters tried to stop these looters sent by Shekau, as they live by taxing civilians living in the countryside they control. So that’s probably one of the reasons for the decision to go on the offensive. But this massive offensive against Sambisa is really something new.