New ISWAP chief kills five rebel leaders to consolidate power

The new leader of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) Lawan Abubakar, also called Ba Lawan, has executed five Shura council members (the supreme leadership council of the terrorist group) including the erstwhile leader of the group Abu Abdullahi Umar Al Barnawi aka Ba Idrisa, authoritative sources familiar with developments around the group said Sunday in Diffa and Maiduguri.

“It is by far the most bloody and extensive move in the history of the group to behead its leadership crop in one fell swoop,” researchers and reporters on the Media and Terrorism collaborative project of Premium Times and HumAngle Media Foundation learnt at the weekend.

The execution is seen as the new leader’s way of consolidating his power and authority over the terrorist organisation.

After an early February coup that led to the overthrow of Al-Barnawi, the new leadership detained him together with four members of the Shura who constituted his kitchen cabinet, sources said.

The precise date of the execution is still in contention, but multiple sources familiar with the development said the killing of Ba Idrisa, along with Mohammad Bashir, Mustapha Jere, Ali Abdullahi, and the notorious Baba Mayinta, believed to be the power behind the throne under the Idrisa dispensation, “definitely triggered the mutiny of Wednesday 26th February into Thursday, 27th February by Ba Idrisa loyalists.

“It is unclear whether the scheme was to create a smokescreen in a process of working to an answer by swiftly ordering their summary execution but a rank of fighting troops loyal to the executed leaders instigated a rebellion against the new leaders, invading the secluded island that serves as one of their main sanctuaries, hoping to free the five men and plot their escape,” our usually multiple sources embedded in the conflicts state, said, claiming there was originally no intention to execute the leaders.

However, in the gun exchange that ensued before dawn on Thursday, February 27, some high-profile leaders became collateral casualties, with Mustapha Krimima, the notable power-behind-the-throne and kingmaker in ISWAP escaping fatality by the whiskers and Abu Musab, a former leader, dethroned in March 2019 and son of late Mohammed Yusuf, founder of Boko Haram, believed to have been shot.

At press time, sources had no confirmation whether he survived or was killed.

Traditionally, such power consolidation schema in the rank of the insurgency often heralds a short to medium period of unprecedented violence when the new leadership tries to define its identity, but inside sources and watchers of the recent ISWAP evolution are saying, in the current situation, a far-reaching purge, with its potential for substantial damage to the internal cohesion within the group as well as possible prolonged leadership instability should be expected.

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