How Late Boko Haram Founder, Mohammed Yusuf’s First Son Al-Barnawi Kidnapped Missing Dapchi School Girls For Ransom
Believe it or not, there are terrorists who are not terrible. Among such unbelievable terrorists is Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, who leads a faction of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, according to someone who claims to know.
It is interesting that human rights activist Aisha Wakil paid tribute to Al-Barnawi when she spoke about the astonishing abduction of over 100 schoolgirls by Boko Haram from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19. Wakil, popularly known as Mama Boko Haram, is believed to have a rapport with the leadership of the group.
She has been credited with helping the presidency to negotiate the release of persons kidnapped by Boko Haram in the past. She was a member of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North formed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
After she made a public plea for the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls, Wakil said the Al-Barnawi-led group contacted her: “They are even the ones that called me and said Mama, we heard what you have said and told me that they are with the girls and they are going to release them. I begged of them and said please let this not be another 1,000-plus days of Chibok girls, and they laughed and said no. I asked them where I can come and stay with them (girls) for two days, but they did not say anything.”
She added: “I can assure Nigerians that so far they are with my son, Habib, and his friends; Habib is a nice guy, he is a very nice boy. He will not harm them, he will not touch them, and he will not kill them. He is going to listen to us, and so far, he indicated interest that he loves peace. And I love them for that and believe what they said on this. They will definitely give us the girls. All I am begging Nigerians is to calm down, be prayerful, everything will be over.” Habib might be “a nice guy…a very nice boy.” But he is also a terrorist, which means that he is mean.
Clearly, the latest evil by Boko Haram terrorists shows that Islamist terrorism is alive and well despite contrary claims by the country’s military authorities. The Dapchi attack happened after Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai restated his order to troops to capture Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau dead or alive. It is noteworthy that in 2017 the army chief gave his men a 40-day ultimatum to capture Shekau, and the army recently offered a N3 million reward for information on the elusive Shekau.
Buratai was quoted as saying when he visited troops at Camp Zairo in the Sambisa Forest, which had served as headquarters of the terrorists before the military seized the camp in December 2016: “Let me say congratulations. But we must move across to wherever this criminal, Shekau, is and catch him…I want you to get him…You all know these criminals are still on the run; these guys are on the run, you must make sure that you get them wherever they are around this area…You must not allow them to escape. Every day, you must go on patrol, lay ambush for them and you go on raids.”
A little less talk and a lot more action are needed as the Dapchi abduction compounded the still unresolved Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnapping in Borno State in April 2014. Many of the Chibok captives are still in captivity.
It is disturbing that the terrorists were able to carry out the Dapchi attack and kidnap over 100 schoolgirls. It calls into question the effectiveness of anti-terrorism troops in the region. The northeastern states of Borno and Yobe have been vulnerable to Boko Haram attacks since the insurgency started in 2009, meaning that there was always a possibility the terrorists would strike again like they did in Chibok as long as they had not been defeated. Indeed, the Dapchi incident has exposed the overconfidence of the authorities that the worst is over.
With the Al-Barnawi faction claiming responsibility for the Dapchi abduction, it remains to be seen whether the story would be different from the Chibok kidnapping attributed to Shekau’s leadership. The factionalisation of Boko Haram will make it harder to fight the group because it means that the anti-terror war will have to be fought against factions. Buratai wants Shekau captured. He should want Al-Barnawi captured too.
Abubakar Shekau was among the “The World’s Most Influential People” listed by TIME in 2015. The identified influencers in the 2015 TIME 100 were diverse enough to include the anti-hero. The TIME portrait said: “The citizens of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, know Abubakar Shekau all too well: he is the most violent killer their country has ever seen.” Shekau’s terrifying profile was worsened by his group’s outrageous seizure of more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls.
Shekau has been reported dead, or more specifically, reported killed, on at least two occasions; and there is speculation that Shekau may have become “a brand name” for whoever is the leader of Boko Haram.
Before the TIME ranking, an international think tank, the Project for the Study of the 21st Century, said the Boko Haram insurgency was the fourth deadliest conflict in the world in 2014 and was responsible for 11, 529 deaths. The think tank added that the figure of fatalities could be underestimated.
Al-Barnawi, reportedly in his twenties, is the first son of the late founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, who died in police custody in 2009 following a military operation against the group in Borno State, which further radicalised it. In August 2016, the extremist militant group, ISIS, appointed Al-Barnawi as the head of Boko Haram, a recognition which was rejected by Shekau.
A revealing profile of the actor at the centre of the Dapchi abduction says: “Little is known about Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, who appeared in a Boko Haram video in January 2015 as the group’s spokesman…He wore a turban and his face was blurred out and it was filmed as a sit-down studio interview… Barnawi pulled no punches, warning that towns which resisted Boko Haram in its mission to create an Islamic state would be flattened… He also spoke of being against democracy and foreign education.”
This is not a portrait of the terrorist as a nice man.
[Article By Femi Macaulay]