Mr Barnawi’s death could not be independently confirmed, and for many Nigerians, the military chief’s statement is not conclusive proof. The national army had previously claimed to have killed Boko Haram leader Mr. Shekau only to see him later come back alive, sometimes jubilant in videos.
In his press conference, General Irabor said of Mr Barnawi: “He is dead and remains dead.
The US State Department and the US Africa Command said they were aware of reports of Mr Barnawi’s death, but could not confirm it.
Mr Barnawi’s disappearance, if true, would be a blow to his group’s fortunes in the region. But this may not affect the leadership structure. It has not been known for a long time who is actually leading his extremist force.
The real power has long been thought to be Mamman Nur, once one of the main leaders of the original Boko Haram group. In northeast Nigeria, ISWAP is still often referred to as “the Mamman Nur faction” – meaning a faction of Boko Haram, as opposed to the group led by Mr. Shekau.
Mamman Nur is believed to have died in 2018, however, and security experts in the region say it’s unclear exactly who is currently leading the group.
Yet Colin P. Clarke, counterterrorism analyst at the Soufan Group, a New York-based security consultancy, said: “Without risking overstating the importance, the death of al-Barnawi is extremely important.” because ISWAP has considerably extended its territory. in recent years.
He added: “With Shekau’s recent death, jihadism in West Africa is undergoing a transition, as groups compete for resources and recruits. “
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.