The brutal leader of the deadly terrorist group Boko Haram died after blowing himself up in a car chase.
Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) militant group said in an audio recording Reuters heard on Sunday that Abubakar Shekau was dead.
The leader of the rival Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram was reportedly killed around May 18.
He set off an explosive device after being pursued by ISWAP fighters in battle, someone posing as the group’s leader, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, said on the audio recording.
“Abubakar Shekau, God judged him by sending him to heaven”, one hears him say.
Two people familiar with al-Barnawi told the news agency that the voice on the recording was that of the ISWAP leader.
A Nigerian intelligence report shared by a government official and researchers from Boko Haram also said Shekau was dead.
The leader of Boko Haram is said to have been killed several times over the past 12 years, including in military announcements, to appear later in a video report.
In the audio recording, the man identified as al-Barnawi said his fighters had visited the warlord on the orders of the leadership of the Islamic State and fought against the insurgents of Boko Haram until Shekau fled.
ISWAP pursued him and offered him a chance to repent and join them, he said.
“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the afterlife than to be humiliated on earth, and he immediately killed himself by detonating an explosive,” he said.
Boko Haram gained worldwide fame for the 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 school girls from Chibok City, which sparked a global campaign for their return called #BringBackOurGirls, supported by Michelle Obama.
About 100 of the Chibok Girls are still missing, and some are believed to have died in captivity.
Shekau led the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground Islamic sect in 2009 to a full-fledged insurrection that killed, kidnapped, and looted its way through northeastern Nigeria.
The group has killed more than 30,000 people, forced about 2 million people to flee, and sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
ISWAP was previously part of Boko Haram before it split five years ago and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The split was caused by religious ideological disagreements over the killing of civilians by Boko Haram, which ISWAP objected to.
The audio statement, first obtained by local media, is the first confirmation from ISWAP that its arch-rival was killed in the Lake Chad region.