The reports about the death of the leader of the Jama’atu Ahlil Sunnah Lil Da’awatu Wal Jihad, Abubakar Shekau, as well as top commanders of the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP) in a fierce confrontation have dominated the headlines of legacy and social media.
The two terror groups based in Borno State held a grudge against each other since 2016 when ISWAP broke away from the Shekau-led group and operates from a different location. Both groups, which have continued to threaten peace and security, were declared ‘terrorist organisations’ and most of their commanders are placed on the military’s wanted list. A bounty was offered for the capture of Shekau by the US government.
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Reactions following the unconfirmed death of Shekau have continued to generate public attention, though both the Borno State Government and security forces are yet to make clarifications.
While some people are of the opinion that the fall of Shekau does not mean an end to insurgency, others said it is a means to an end.
A resident of Maiduguri, Alhaji AbdulRahman Modu, 63, said the reports about the death of the terrorist leader “do not seem to be reasonable” because he had survived different attacks in which he was earlier reported dead. He said even if the reports turned out to be correct, celebrating early could be a costly and huge mistake.
“Tables can always turn in this situation because ISWAP is out to dislodge Shekau, take over his position, operational base and possibly absorb his remaining followers and commanders. So people should prepare for a new form of terror because ISWAP is affiliated to other groups abroad that are funding it.
“While some of the ISWAP members were fighting Shekau in Sambisa, another cell in Damasak crossed to the Nigerien territory, where over 30 fighters were killed by the military in that country. They are just struggling to have more places under their control,” he said.
On the other hand, a member of the volunteer security outfit, Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), who would not want to be named, said the death of Shekau was likely to end the insurgency because some of his commanders want to negotiate with the government and ceasefire.
“Some of them do not know why they are in the struggle and are bored with the situation that has existed for long. But they were afraid to voice out their opinion because doing so would be deadly as Shekau would surely kill them. They now have a chance to offer the olive branch before it is late,” he said.
But Shettima Sale, who lives in Baga, said most of the fighters from both groups know one another and could easily be at the negotiating table and settle their differences and become one.