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ISIS Fires West Africa Affairs Manager But He Refuses To Leave


ISIS is having some management trouble. It's having problems installing a new manager of it's West Africa affairs. ISIS claims leadership over Boko Haram, the brutal group based in Nigeria. But when ISIS accused the Boko Haram leader of being too brutal and fired him, he refused to go. Let's talk about this with NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. She is outside Nigeria's northeastern of Maiduguri, which is the birthplace of Boko Haram.

Hi, Ofeibea.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings, Steve. And, in fact, I'm at Muna, informal - refugees, you can call them - displaced peoples camp. And there are literally thousands of these flimsy dwellings covered in plastic and straw. They're part of the two-plus million displaced people who've been driven from their home by Boko Haram and by Boko Haram violence.

INSKEEP: Goodness, that's a place certainly to discuss. What on earth is happening with Boko Haram. Would you remind people what its relationship is with ISIS? Has the Nigerian group pledged allegiance to ISIS? Is that right?

QUIST-ARCTON: Indeed. About a year ago, the then-leader of Boko Haram, who goes by the name of Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader. But in the last few days, ISIS is now saying that Abubakar Shekau is no longer the leader of Boko Haram. And they have appointed somebody called Abu Musab al-Barnawi. And he has recorded a diatribe saying that Shekau did not look after his fighters, let the babies of fighters die, was the - not looking after women - pregnant women while he, Shekau, was living a life of luxury with his wife.

INSKEEP: So the problem here is not that he is brutal and inhumane. It's that he's accused of being brutal and inhumane to the wrong people. And so he was fired, effectively, by ISIS and replaced. But what does it mean that he's refused to go? What does that practically look like?

QUIST-ARCTON: Absolutely. He was also accused of killing Muslims, and that appears to be one of the main reasons. Shekau seems to have been willing to kill anyone deemed not to be following the proper Islam. So it looks as if this move by ISIS is to put in somebody who will not be stealing the limelight and who will be following, as they see it, the tenets of Islam.

INSKEEP: Are there now two factions of Boko Haram with two leaders ready to go against each other?

QUIST-ARCTON: That's how it looks like, Steve. But on the ground, you get the Nigerian government that tells you Boko Haram is on the back foot now, that they have defeated Boko Haram. But here I am, Steve, just - what? - five miles from Maiduguri. And you have literally tens of thousands of women I'm seeing, and they're not able to look after their children. Their husbands aren't able to work. And they're too frightened to go back home. So despite what the government is saying, you have people who say they do not feel secure yet.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

Ofeibea, thanks as always.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.