Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau
What seems to be Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau in its propaganda video in March 2016 YouTube

Boko Haram's disputed leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed he is still in charge of the Nigeria-based the terror group. Shekau, whose whereabouts are unknown, made the claims after the Islamic State (Isis) terror group, Boko Haram's ally, named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new leader.

However, Shekau, released an audio message in Arabic and Hausa, one of the main language spoken in northern Nigeria, accusing al-Barnawi of trying to stage a coup against him.

"I want the world to know that we are still holding our ideology and tied with the Quran, we will not derail and will not revolt but will continue to remain in the cause of Allah. Following Prophet SAW is compulsory for us, and we will follow it to the end," Shekau said in the recording, according to Sahara Reporters.

"This is our stand, and we are still in the cause of Jama'atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da'awati wal-Jihad [Boko Haram] and Allah will help us. May Allah strengthen us to remain in this cause."

Al-Barnawi appeared in a January 2015 Boko Haram video as the group's spokesperson. A few months later, Boko Haram was believed to have released a video featuring Shekau.

Why was Shekau replaced?

  • In 2015, rumours spread that Shekau had been killed or replaced as the leader has not made a verified video appeareance for the past year. The rumours could undermine the group's operation and loyalty of other cells.
  • Shekau is known for preferring Boko Haram's autonomy from foreign jihadist groups.
  • The fact that some Boko Haram members left the group to form other splinters has cast doubt over Shekau's leadership.

However, the unusual poor quality of the footage raised suspicions over its authenticity. Furthermore, the video was only shared on YouTube, rather than on Twitter accounts affiliated with Boko Haram's ally, Daesh.

Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorists?

Boko Haram, which has renamed itself Iswap, fights against Western influence in Nigeria and aims to impose its version of Sharia law throughout occupied territories.

The group launches attacks in Nigeria and neighbouring countries in a bid to take control of more territory. Three Nigerian states − Adamawa, Borno and Yobe − have been under a state of emergency since May 2013.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people since 2009 and was deemed the world's deadliest terror group, surpassing Isis in November 2015. Nigeria has also become the world's third most terrorised country as a result of the group's violent insurgency.

Nigeria up close: Check out our Flipboard magazine

Note: This article was corrected on 12 August to remove reference to Abu Musab al-Barnawi having defected from Boko Haram.