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Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau ‘blows himself up while being pursued by rival militant group’

The leader of the Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram has killed himself, a rival group has claimed.

The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) said in an audio recording that Abubakar Shekau died after detonating an explosive device when he was pursued by the group’s fighters following a battle.

He is said to have died around May 18. A Nigerian intelligence report shared by a government official and Boko Haram researchers have also said Shekau is dead.

Boko Haram’s leader was reported to have been killed on several occasions over the last 12 years, including in announcements by the military, only to later appear in a video post.

Shekau led the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground Islamic sect in 2009 to a full-fledged insurgency, killing, kidnapping and looting its way across northeast Nigeria.

The group has killed more than 30,000 people, forced around two million people to flee their homes and spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

ISWAP was previously part of Boko Haram before its split five years ago, pledging allegiance to Islamic State. The schism was caused by religious ideological disagreements over the killing of civilians by Boko Haram, to which ISWAP objected.

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