By Vincent Kende Niebede

Translated from the French by Damascene Hakuzimana

Abu Musab Albarnawi, leader of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), has confirmed the death of sister terrorist group leader Abubakar Shekau, who was killed after detonating his explosive belt in Sambisa forest, where he was based with his men. Sambisa is a dense forest located at the southwest of Lake Chad Basin National Park in northeast Nigeria. The rival groups had been battling each other.

According to reports by followers of Abu Musab Albarnawi, Shekau refused to surrender to the ISWAP men and triggered his explosive belt to avoid being caught, said Dr. Remadji Hoinathy, a senior researcher from the regional office for West Africa, the Sahel, and Lake Chad at the Institute of Security Studies. Hoinathy, along with other experts on terrorism in the region, is convinced that Shekau is dead, and that Bako Gorgor, a commander of ISWAP who was leading the attack, also died in the explosion.

Isaac Dimanche, a terrorism researcher and journalist based in Chad, said, “ISWAP does not approve of the way Boko Haram conducts itself and exercises violence. It is in this context that the Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP, was feuding with Boko Haram because their leader did not obey the orders of the head of the Islamic State based in Iraq.”

The death of the leader of Boko Haram is welcomed as good news by many, and is a blow to Boko Haram. Expectations are that his disappearance will weaken the group’s ability to reorganize and strike out.

However, Hoinathy warned that the death of Shekau could lead to further violence from another area in the countries of the Lake Chad basin. “Sambisa Forest, in which the Boko Haram leader was killed, was a hiding base for Shekau, his men and their weaponry, which could be recuperated by the Islamic State of West Africa Province,” Hoinathy said.

Experts say the Islamic State has lost ground in Syria and Libya, and now wants to settle in the Lake Chad basin. They fear that the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau will not bring peace, but will instead give ISWAP a free pass in the Lake Chad basin. This would establish the terrorist organization in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad.