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President Macron says French troops killed ISWAP leader Al-Barnawi

President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed that French military forces killed Islamic militant and the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi who is better known in Nigeria as Abu Musab Al-Barnawi.

“It’s another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” Macron said in a tweet, without disclosing the location of the operation.

Al-Barnawi was the historic leader of Islamic State in the Sahel region of West Africa and his group targeted U.S. soldiers in a deadly attack in 2017, Macron’s office said. In August 2020,

The ISWAP leader personally ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerien driver, it added.

His death in Nigeria’s Borno state was first reported by Nigeria’s Daily Trust but it is unclear when and how the dreaded militant leader was killed. He was reportedly killed in the last week of August this year. His death could mark a new phase against the militant insurgency in West Africa.

Al-Barnawi was the son of Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, who was also killed by security forces in 2009 when he launched a war against the Nigerian state. More than 1,000d people died during the uprising.

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In 2016, the Islamic State militant group announced Al-Barnawi as the leader of its West African affiliate, Boko Haram, which was hitherto led by Abubakar Shekau. Shekau took over as the group’s leader after the death of Mohammed Yusuf.

Before his dethronement, Shekau had sworn allegiance to IS in March 2015 and had killed thousands of people and destroyed countless communities during his reign of terror that extended up to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

His dislodgement in 2016 heralded the rise of the relatively young Al-Barnawi as ISWAP leader and at the same time the split of the terrorist group into two factions.

It was reported that ISIS partly chose Al-Barnawi as leader in the Lake Chad region in order to punish Shekau who reportedly “violated all known norms” and to also retain the confidence of Boko Haram fighters who were loyal to his father, Yusuf, amid threats from other factional groups.

Al-Barnawi was also said to have been trained by ISIS for years ahead of his ascension to power.

Shekau, who was declared wanted by the United States with a price on his head, had led the Boko Haram faction with solid footing around the Sambisa forest and part of the Mandara Mountains bordering the Cameroon Republic.

On the other hand, Al-Barnawi launched vicious attacks especially on military facilities and troops in the Lake Chad region while at the same time strategising on how to subdue Shekau.

He controlled large swathes of territory in Northern Borno, imposed taxes on the local population and earned serious income from fishing asides from the financial and material support he got from ISIS.

Al-Barnawi’s fighters had also destroyed many military super camps in Dikwa, Monguno, Abadam and Marte in Borno; and other military facilities around Geidam in Yobe State.

He equally established many cells on the Lake Chad islands and surrounding villages from where his fighters launched attacks on Nigeria, Niger and Chad.

His death in August, after that of Shekau in May 2021, would be seen as a turning point in the war against terror even as security experts had called for sustained offensive towards decimating the two rival groups to have a lasting peace after twelve years of uncertainty and carnage.

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