The Islamic State is trying to change up the leadership of Nigerian-based Boko Haram and has appointed a new leader who is vowing to bomb churches and kill all Christians.
IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) announced Wednesday in its al-Nabaa newspaper that Abu Musab al-Barnawi is the new leader of its Nigerian-affiliated outfit, calling him the “Wali” (governor) of its West African Province.
In an interview published by the IS news source that was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, al-Barnawi vowed to kill less Muslims and more Christians.
Under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram has been known to kill not only Christians but also Muslims who oppose the terrorist group.
Al-Barnawi, who was formerly believed to be just the group’s spokesman, vowed to end attacks on mosques and vowed to attack more churches, the Associated Press reports.
“They strongly seek to Christianize the society,” al-Barnawi was quoted as saying. “They exploit the condition of those who are displaced under the raging war, providing them with food and shelter and then Christianizing their children.”
Al-Barnawi said that the militants will respond to the threat of evangelism by “booby-trapping and blowing up every church that we are able to reach, and killing all of those [Christians] who we find from the citizens of the cross.”
Despite IS’ claim of leadership change, Shekau, who claimed leadership of the group in 2010, was featured in a recording posted to YouTube on Wednesday night, hours after the al-Barnawi interview was released.
In the 10-minute recording, which according to The New York Times is believed to be authentic, Shekau accused IS of staging a coup against his leadership. Shekau is a former lieutenant of the group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in 2009.
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Shekau discussed a split in the faction over whether Muslims who don’t live by Boko Haram standards deserve to live.
According to BBC, Shekau accused others in Boko Haram of stopping him from communicating with IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“I was asked to send my ideology in writing to the caliph but it was manipulated by some people in order to achieve their own selfish interests,” Shekau explained.
He explained that he sent eight letters to IS leadership and never heard back from them until he heard the news that he had been replaced.
“It’s a very public divorce in many ways,” Yan St-Pierre, a chief executive of the Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, told The New York Times.
“This could weaken them like it does any organization,” St-Pierre added. “And that could play into the Nigerian military’s favor.”
BBC reports that journalists who cover the group have pointed out that al-Barnawi is the son of the group’s founder, Yusuf.
“In choosing one of Yusuf’s sons, the Islamic State has shown they understand the importance of continuity of a local vision to their allies,” wrote Nigerian analyst Andrew Walker, the author of Eat the Heart of the Infidel. “Concern will intensify that al-Barnawi and his IS backers will take a more international, outward-looking path.”