DAKAR, Senegal — The pinnacle of Nigeria’s best-known terrorist group, Boko Haram, has been reported useless many instances earlier than.

However now proof that this time he may actually be useless has emerged through an audio message, apparently recorded by the top of a rival extremist group.

In it, the chief of Islamic State West Africa Province, often called ISWAP, appeared to substantiate that Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s violent and erratic chief, killed himself rather than be taken prisoner in May.

“Shekau most popular to be humiliated within the hereafter than on earth,” the voice within the recording says. “He killed himself immediately by detonating an explosive.”

Mr. Shekau was greatest identified for the kidnapping of lots of of schoolgirls from a boarding faculty in Chibok in 2014. However his fighters kidnapped, killed, raped and robbed many 1000’s extra, and despatched untold numbers of Nigerians to their deaths as suicide bombers. Thousands and thousands have been displaced within the area because of the violence.

The loss of life of Mr. Shekau, if true, marks the tip of a brutal period for northeast Nigeria and its neighboring nations within the Lake Chad area.

However it might additionally signify the start of a brand new period, wherein ISWAP takes new territory after eliminating its chief rival, and amps up confrontations with the Nigerian state and its navy. ISWAP splintered from Boko Haram, reportedly partly due to Mr. Shekau’s violence in opposition to Muslim civilians.

ISWAP has these days posed the higher menace to the Nigerian navy, which is stretched as it’s deployed to struggle numerous crises in nearly each one of many West African nation’s states. ISWAP has pledged allegiance to ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In late Could, stories trickled out that closely armed ISWAP members had arrived at Mr. Shekau’s hide-out within the Sambisa forest. When he realized that there was no approach to escape, he detonated a suicide vest he was carrying, the stories stated.

The Nigerian navy, which has largely retreated to garrison cities within the northeast relatively than attempting to manage the countryside, stated it was investigating. This can be very tough to substantiate Mr. Shekau’s loss of life definitively, and he has been falsely reported as useless earlier than — by some counts, eight instances.

The audio was shared with investigative journalist Ahmad Salkida, who is understood to have an excellent information of Boko Haram and ISWAP exercise, and who printed an article about it on Humangle, the information website he co-founded. The voice sounds the identical as that in earlier recordings attributed to Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the chief of ISWAP and the son of Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf.

Within the audio, the voice, which speaks within the Kanuri language, says that ISWAP troopers have been advised to “take pressing motion” in opposition to Mr. Shekau by “Amirul Muminin,” referring to the chief of ISIS, in response to Mr. Salkida.

ISWAP fighters engaged Mr. Shekau in gunfire, after which he ran away and hid within the bush for 5 days, the audio stated. However the fighters tracked him down.

“Our fighters sacrificed their lives and have been in a state of worry, considering that it was an not possible mission to realize,” the message stated. “He was really caught unawares.”

Ismail Alfa contributed reporting from Maiduguri, Nigeria.