Divisions seem to be appearing throughout the ranks of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram as leaders dispute who is to control ISIS’s “West African province.”
Abubaker Shekau, who had previously been the group’s leader, recently reasserted his claim to continue as head of the group after efforts were made by ISIS to denounce his position and place Abu Musab al-Barnawi at the helm.
This assertion by Shekau came soon after the statement was made by the Islamic State.
Shekau told followers that not only was he still the leader of Boko Haram, but that al-Barnawi had been trying to stage a coup against him for some time and his claim was illegitimate.
In the past Shekau has made attempts to distance Boko Haram from ISIS although he has continued to call its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “caliph,” according to BBC.
Boko Haram first pledged itself to the Islamic State in 2015. At this time Shekau was continuing in his efforts to further radicalize the Nigerian organization.
However, in the past 18 months, Boko Haram’s allegiance to ISIS has not helped the group gain any ground in Nigeria. In fact, Boko Haram has continued to lose much of the territory it had previously acquired to Nigerian officials.
Shekau has also experienced trouble keeping in contact with ISIS. He said that some in Boko Haram had stopped keeping in contact with ISIS at all.
Shekau also mentioned that he had sent eight letters to ISIS containing his ideology as well as recommendations for action by ISIS in Nigeria but had heard no reply.
Months later the Islamic State claimed Shekau had been replaced with al-Barnawi.
This division within Boko Haram appears to be the most severe in the groups history, and could result in clashes between foot soldiers as Shekau and al-Banawi vie for power.
Military officials told BBC that this division is a sign of weakness within the Nigerian terrorist group and could be a signal of its collapse in the near future.
Other officials however, have said that this division could make the group more volatile as it spins out of control.
Ultimately, Nigerian forces will need to use the factionalism within Boko Haram to their advantage and take control of the situation within their country.