Boko haram and Iswap | Nigeria’s military has been battling an Islamist insurgency in the northeast since 2009, a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 and displaced around two million more.
Attahiru had once been in charge of leading the frontline offensive against Boko Haram’s commander Shekau in the northeast in 2017.
Local intelligence sources said Shekau had been seriously wounded this week when IS-allied rival jihadists attacked his stronghold in the Sambisa forest in the northeastern state of Borno.
Sources said Shekau was wounded when he shot himself to try to evade capture after militants from the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) surrounded him following a series of battles between the rival groups.
Nigeria news outlets have been filled with unconfirmed reports about the death of the man who made international headlines in 2014 when his fighters kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok.
One intelligence source said on Friday Shekau had already died from his wounds in Nainawa village on Thursday, though that was not confirmed by authorities.
“He was buried in the night in an unmarked grave to avoid exhumation by either the Nigerian military or rival jihadists,” the local intelligence source said.
The Boko Haram leader has been reported killed several times since the conflict began, only to reappear later.
Nigeria’s army has said it was still investigating the reports and neither ISWAP or Boko Haram have issued any statements about the Sambisa attack or Shekau’s whereabouts.
But analysts said his loss would be a huge blow to his Boko Haram faction and potentially allow ISWAP to consolidate its territorial control in Nigeria’s northeast.
ISWAP has emerged as the dominant force in Nigeria’s conflict, showing a sustained ability to carry out complex attacks on the military and recently overrunning several army bases.