For Albarnawy, about whom little is in the public space, this is a dream come true, his re-emergence from the fringes and obscurity into limelight. But unlike his former, expired boss, he is not given to hogging the limelight and rhetorics.
Still, many see his re-emergence as a move by the Islamic State, IS, to unify the already fractured terrorist group and re-strategize.
Albarnawy himself claimed he had received directives from the IS to take over and coordinate all activities of the insurgents under one umbrella for easy movement of funds, weapons, and materials. To achieve this objective, ISWAP has taken over all territories under Shekau’s control and arrested 30 commanders loyal to him. Before then, other commanders loyal to Shekau had surrendered to him.
Here are facts on the new ISWAP/Boko Haram leader.
Al-barnawi is the eldest surviving son of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram who was extra-judicially murdered by the Nigerian police in 2009.
His name is derived from Arabic, meaning: “The man from Borno.”
He first appeared in a Boko Haram video in 2015 claiming he was spokesman of Boko Haram, before it pledged allegiance to ISIL.
He later fell out with Shekau and went underground. Many thought he had lost relevance and was of little significance.
Shekau not only rejected what he regarded as the imposition of Al-barnawi, calling it a coup detat in a video, he also refused to recognise Albarnawi’s authority, which made the group to split into two factions, Shekau retained Jamaat Ahlus Sunnah li Dawah wal Jihad as the original name of the group, while Al-barnawi led the Islamic State’s West African province (ISWAP).
Like his late principal, Shekau, he also speaks against western education and democracy, though his tactics are different. While Shekau believes in exterminating all non-adherents of the Quran, A-lbarnawi believes mosques and Muslims should be spared.