Boko Haram groups clash

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

KANO — In-fight­ing has bro­ken out in Boko Haram af­ter the Is­lamic State group an­nounced a new leader of its Nige­rian af­fil­i­ate, ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the coun­try’s re­mote north­east.

IS said last month that Abu Musab al-Bar­nawi, the son of Boko Haram’s founder Mo­hammed Yusuf, had re­placed Abubakar Shekau at the head of the des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion.

But Shekau then in­sisted he was still in charge of the Is­lamist group, whose in­sur­gency has killed at least 20 000 peo­ple since 2009 and forced more than 2.6 mil­lion from their homes.

Sources in north­east Nige­ria now say there have been deadly skir­mishes be­tween the two fac­tions, even as Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary seeks to fi­nally rout the rebels in a sus­tained counter-of­fen­sive.

Last Thurs­day, sev­eral fight­ers from Shekau’s camp were said to have been killed in two sep­a­rate gun bat­tles with IS-backed Bar­nawi gun­men in the Monguno area of Borno state near Lake Chad.

Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary de­clined to com­ment on the re­ported in-fight­ing when con­tacted by AFP.

Mele Kaka, who lives in the area, area: “The Bar­nawi fac­tion launched an of­fen­sive against the Shekau fac­tion who were camped in the vil­lages of Yele and Arafa.

“In Yele, the as­sailants killed three peo­ple from the Shekau camp, in­jured one and took one with them, while sev­eral were killed in Arafa,” he said by tele­phone from the state cap­i­tal, Maiduguri.

The at­tack prompted res­i­dents of Arafa to flee, he added.

Fight­ers from Bar­nawi camp had the pre­vi­ous day at­tacked gun­men loyal to Shekau in Zuwa vil­lage in nearby Marte district, killing an un­spec­i­fied num­ber, Kaka said.

“The Bar­nawi fight­ers told vil­lagers af­ter each at­tack that they were fight­ing the other camp be­cause they had de­railed from the true ji­had and were killing in­no­cent peo­ple, loot­ing their property and burn­ing their homes,” he went on. “They said such acts con­tra­vene the teach­ings of Is­lam and true ji­had.”

Shekau has led Boko Haram since the death of Mo­hammed Yusuf in po­lice cus­tody in 2009, wag­ing a deadly, in­dis­crim­i­nate guerilla war that has over­whelm­ingly tar­geted civil­ians.

Sui­cide bombers have re­peat­edly hit busy mosques, churches, mar­kets and bus sta­tions while hit-an­drun raids have de­stroyed re­mote vil­lages, killing and maim­ing res­i­dents.

Thou­sands of peo­ple, many of them women and young girls, have been kid­napped, in­clud­ing more than 200 school­girls, who were seized from the Borno town of Chi­bok more than two years ago.

Shekau has jus­ti­fied the at­tacks in rant­ing video and au­dio mono­logues against the sec­u­lar state, those who sup­port it and any­one who does not share his rad­i­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lam.

He pledged al­le­giance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi in March last year, chang­ing the group’s name to Is­lamic State West Africa Prov­ince (ISWAP).

Ex­perts, how­ever, sug­gest the in­dis­crim­i­nate slaugh­ter of civil­ians as well as Shekau’s “dic­ta­to­rial” style, in­clud­ing se­cret killings of dis­sent­ing com­man­ders, have caused a rift.

Shortly af­ter his nom­i­na­tion, Bar­nawi made a pointed cri­tique of Shekau’s lead­er­ship, lam­bast­ing him for tar­get­ing or­di­nary Mus­lims.

News of the fac­tional clashes have been slow to emerge be­cause of the de­stroyed telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture in north­east Nige­ria, and re­stricted ac­cess.

A civil­ian vig­i­lante as­sist­ing the mil­i­tary against Boko Haram said there were spo­radic clashes be­tween the op­pos­ing fight­ers. The three in­ci­dents de­scribed by Kaka were “very pos­si­ble”, said Babakura Kolo.

“I don’t have news of the clashes but it is not sur­pris­ing if they did oc­cur be­cause there has been sim­i­lar in-fight­ing among the two Boko Haram camps,” he added.

Two weeks ago, there was a fierce gun bat­tle in the Abadam area of Borno state, near the bor­der with Niger, where Shekau’s fight­ers were routed, he said.

“It was a deadly fight and Shekau’s fight­ers were forced to flee,” he said.

Hundreds of res­i­dents of the vil­lages and their herds taken hostage by the flee­ing fight­ers were al­lowed to go about their nor­mal lives by the Bar­nawi fac­tion, Kolo added. — AFP

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