The Nigerian government announced on Thursday that its military troops have killed the leader of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), Malam Bako.

Bako had succeeded Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who himself was killed by Nigerian troops two weeks ago. Al-Barnawi was the son of Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf.

Army spokesman Brigadier Benard Onyuko said in a statement that Nigerian troops had conducted several raids and airstrikes on suspected ISWAP locations. Malam Bako was killed in one such raid.

“In the course of the operations within the period, a total of 38 terrorist elements were neutralized, including the ISWAP’s new leader, Bako,” Onyuko said. He declined to discuss any details of the operation.

Nigerian soldiers
Nigerian troops receiving training from U.S. forces during an exercise. (DVIDS)

Onyeuko added that 11 people, including terrorists, their informants, and logistics suppliers, were arrested. He said that between October 15 and 28, a total of 1,199 terrorists and their families, comprising 114 adult males, 312 adult females, and 773 children, surrendered to the troops at different locations in the North East.

Speaking to the media at the State House on Thursday, the Nigerian National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno said Bako was killed by Nigerian troops alongside another ISWAP commander.

These attacks by the army are beginning to take a toll on the insurgent terror group.

“In one month, we have been able to take out the leadership of ISWAP, that is Abu Musab Al-Barnawi… Two days ago, the man who succeeded him, Malam Bako, one of ISWAP Shura Council, was also taken out.”

According to the commander of the Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF), Major General Abdul Khalifah Ibrahim, recent operations have led to the liberation of communities previously held by the terrorists, the rescue of thousands of captives, the neutralization of countless insurgents. Thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons have been able to return to several of the towns and villages they had been displaced from.

ISWAP terrorists
ISWAP fighters pose for a propaganda photo for use by their media arm. (ISWAP propaganda video screenshot)

Following the death of al-Barnawi, Bako is the fourth leader of an Islamist insurgent group in West Africa to be killed this year.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was killed in May after detonating a suicide vest to avoid capture by ISWAP fighters. Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) was killed in August during a Reaper drone strike conducted by a French-led operation of French, American, and Takuba Special Operations Task Force.

ISWAP is an offshoot of the Boko Haram terrorist group that has been fighting against the Nigerian armed forces for over a decade.

The two militant groups later turned on each other after ISIS, an already ruthless organization, criticized Shekau for his brutal tactics which also targeted Muslims. 

The insurgent conflict, which has spilled into neighboring Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, has left about 300,000 dead. Millions have been displaced and dependent on aid, according to the United Nations.