Mamman Nur, a senior figure in the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, reportedly has been killed by some of his own colleagues.
Nur’s men allegedly gunned him down Aug. 21 following an internal dispute, according to Nigerian media sources and others. News reports of the killing have trickled out in the last few days.
Gyade Abdalla, an Islamist scholar in the country’s northeast region where the group is based, has served as a trusted negotiator between Boko Haram leaders, as well as Nigerian government officials. He told VOA that Nur’s men believed the Boko Haram figure was too lenient.
A key point of dispute was Nur’s decision to release schoolgirls kidnapped from the northeast Nigerian town of Dapchi, Abdalla said.
Boko Haram abducted 109 female students from a secondary school in Dapchi in February. Nearly all of the girls were returned safely to their homes about a month later.
Boko Haram also made headlines in April 2014 when it abducted 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. According to #BringBackOurGirls, the social media campaign and organization that formed after the kidnapping, 112 girls are still missing.
Nur led a faction of Boko Haram that broke away in 2014 from the militant group led by Abubakar Shekau. Nur’s faction, which selected Abubakar al-Barnawi as its emir, established its operational base around Lake Chad north of Nigeria’s Borno state.
The group pays allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Nur also has been much more willing than other Boko Haram leaders to negotiate with the government about issues such as releasing captives.
A fluent Arabic speaker, Nur networked extensively with other Boko Haram factions operating around Lake Chad, including in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Abdalla suggested that Nur’s death could weaken the Boko Haram faction.
With no apparent successor to Nur, it could splinter further, Abdalla said. That would give an edge to the Nigerian government if it acted quickly to dislodge the group, he added.
Malam Ibrahim Damaturu, an Islamic studies lecturer at Yobe State University, told VOA that Nur’s killing was unsurprising because the entire Boko Haram organization was built on ignorance of Islam.
He said some militants joined the group to advance personal objectives, and their competing goals were bound to produce friction. He said even Muhammed Yusuf, who founded the group in 2002, had conflicts with some of the followers.
Aliyu Kontagora, a retired Nigerian army colonel now working as a security analyst in the capital, Abuja, said he believes Nur’s assassination might lead to an escalation of deadly attacks in the area, as militants try to demonstrate their strength.
Boko Haram, which promotes an extreme form of Islamist fundamentalism and opposes Western-style education, is blamed for the deaths of more than 30,000 people and for the dislocation of more than 2 million.
UNICEF reported that Boko Haram, intent on destroying schools, had kidnapped more than 1,000 children in northeastern Nigeria as of April.