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UN Security Council Doubtful Of Abu Musab Al Barnawi’s Status

New reports are beaming light on the controversy surrounding the status of the Islamic State West Africa Province's top leadership.

A new UN Security Council committee report on Al Qaeda and the Islamic State says member states are divided on the status of Abu Musab al-Barnawi, raising doubts on the earlier announcement of his death by Nigerian security officials. 

The information was contained in the 29th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted to the Security Council Committee on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Al-Qaeda, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities. 

The report stated that member states remain divided on ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who was reportedly killed in September in a fight with Boko Haram combatants and the group led by Ba Koura. 

One member state was said to have indicated that al-Barnawi may have reverted to his previous role as head of the Al-Furqan office of the general directorate of provinces to ensure operational, logistical, and financial liaison with the ISIL core. 

Abu Musab (Habib Yusuf), a son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf, was appointed ISWAP’s interim leader. He supervised internal reform and the advance into the Sambisa forest stronghold of the rival Boko Haram group.

He previously served as the Boko Haram spokesperson but later joined a sub-group of fighters, including top lieutenant Mamman Nur to form the ISWAP breakaway faction in 2016.

HumAngle understands that the basis for the assessment of death was not sufficient and this is not the first time he has opted to stay off the radar. 

Despite the statements from top security officials on his supposed death, no evidence has been shared to support that position.

In Oct. 2021, Babagana Monguno, President Buhari’s top security adviser, claimed that security forces had taken out al-Barnawi and the man who succeeded him, one Malam Bako.

The adviser’s comments were made days after the country’s Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, an army general, spoke on the supposed death. 

“I can authoritatively confirm to you that Abu Musab is dead. He is dead and remains dead,” Irabor was quoted as saying.

It’s unclear if the Nigerian security forces have obtained a new intelligence assessment on his condition.


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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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