Big news out of Nigeria about Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, courtesy of the Islamic State West African Province militant group, which splintered off from Boko Haram five years ago. "God has judged him by sending him to heaven," ISWAP chief Abu Musab al-Barnawi can be heard saying in an audio recording about Shekau, who al-Barnawi said killed himself on May 18 by detonating an explosive device while being chased by ISWAP fighters, reports Reuters. Two sources confirm to the news agency that the voice in the recording is indeed al-Barnawi's. Per the Guardian, al-Barnawi also said in a recording obtained by a local news site that Shekau's killing was a direct order from ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi. Boko Haram experts and a Nigerian intel report have also said that Shekau is deceased, though the BBC notes Boko Haram itself hasn't confirmed.
In the audio recording, al-Barnawi says that after ISWAP militants caught up with al-Barnawi, they gave him the chance to join forces with them and repent. "Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the afterlife [rather] than getting humiliated on Earth, and he killed himself instantly," al-Barnawi said. When rumors started floating of Shekau's death last month, the Nigerian army said it would look into it, though it's not yet clear what was discovered in that probe. Shekau has been reported dead several times over the past decade or so, only to reemerge. With Shekau out of the picture, that would leave a scenario that's both "good and bad," per the BBC. Good in that Boko Haram—responsible for kidnapping hundreds of Chibok schoolgirls in 2014—and ISWAP now may not clash as much, as ISWAP perhaps tries to lure Boko Haram's fighters to its ranks. But bad in that ISIS' footprint may now get "a massive boost" in West Africa thanks to this possible new united front. (Read more Boko Haram stories.)