The Takfiri Daesh terrorist group has purportedly appointed a new leader for its Nigeria-based affiliate, Boko Haram.
According to Daesh-linked media, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, a former spokesman for Boko Haram, has replaced Abubakar Shekau, who had been in charge since 2009.
It was not clear why the change has taken place.
Later on Thursday, Shekau released an audio message saying, “People should know we are still around,” apparently defying Daesh and the decision to oust him.
Barnawi claimed his group remains “a force to be reckoned with,” adding that the fight would go on against West African countries.
“They strongly seek to Christianize the society… They exploit the condition of those who are displaced under the raging war, providing them with food and shelter and then Christianizing their children,” he said, referring to the West African states.
Al-Barnawi said the Takfiri militant group will respond to that threat 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.”
This file photo shows members of the Takfiri Boko Haram militant group in an undisclosed location in Nigeria.
Boko Haram started a campaign of militancy in Nigeria in 2009 with the aim of toppling the central government. It has so far taken the lives of at least 20,000 people and forced over 2.5 million others from their homes.
The group recently pledged allegiance to Daesh, which is operating mainly in Syria and Iraq.
The mass abduction in 2014 of 276 female students by Boko Haram first brought global attention to the group.
Boko Haram has spread its attacks from northeastern Nigeria into neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.