In his interview with al-Naba , Barnawi, who was previously the spokesman for the group, said Boko Haram “remained a force to be reckoned with,” adding that the group was in the process of recruiting new members. The BBC describes Barnawi’s manner of speaking as “considered” and gentle, unlike Shekau’s loud threats, taunts and ideological ramblings.
A Shift in strategy
In the interview, Barnawi declared that every resistance to the creation of an Islamic State in Nigeria will be brought down, and that attacks will henceforth be targeted at Christians and churches, not on mosques or in market places attended and patronised by Muslims. He described Boko Haram’s battle against West African states as a war fought by Muslims against “apostates” and “crusaders.”
This indicates a shift in strategy for Boko Haram, who have killed both Muslims and Christians alike in random attacks on mosques, churches, schools, and crowded markets. The new “Wali” said fresh attacks will be carried out by “booby-trapping and blowing up every church” that the group is able to reach, and “killing all of those (Christians) who we find from the citizens of the cross.”
Barnawi accused the West of trying to Christianise the region using aid offered by charities and international organizations. “They strongly seek to Christianise the society…They exploit the conditions of those who are displaced under the raging war, providing them with food and shelter and then Christianising their children,” he’s quoted as saying .
Boko Haram’s reign of terror in Nigeria has left over 20,000 dead, and displaced more than 2.2 million people from their homes, creating a
catastrophic humanitarian emergency with people suffering malnutrition and children dying of starvation daily. Under the past leadership of Shekau, the group became more radical, and carried out more killings, overtaking ISIL to become the deadliest terrorist organisation in the world.
Although the activities of the group have reduced, following ardent attacks and counter attacks by the Nigerian military, they recently launched attacks against regional security forces. They also ambushed a UN humanitarian aid convoy last week in north-eastern Nigeria, leaving about five people, civilians and soldiers, wounded, and prompting the UN to temporarily suspend aid deliveries within Borno State.