Key points of the interview based on Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi (Habeeb Bin Muhamed Bin Youssef al-Barnawi) comments:
- Motivation behind pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) was seeing strength fighting as one and in unity.
- The real name of the group was never Boko Haram, it’s a nickname given by western media to discredit the group. The real name was given after the founder, Sheikh Youssef al-Barnawi was killed and Shekau became head of the group. The original name is Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad.
- The group did send its fighters to the Sahara for military training, but al-Barnawi did not specify where and the group that provided the training.
- Western forces are providing support to coalition forces fighting ISWAP/Boko Haram but have no boots on the ground.
- Al-Barnawi said the group does not approve or authorize attacks on mosques and markets killing Muslims. Said members for their own personal interests carry these attacks.
- Al-Barnawi said operations against ISWAP are run from joint operation room in Niger, and when they decide to attack, French and US send surveillance drones from their bases in Niger to locate us. Then joint African forces will carry an on ground assault backed by heavy air support.
- Narrative of al-Barnawi focuses on accusing Western countries and Christians of having hidden agendas behind their humanitarian work and helping refugees.
- Al-Barnawi claims increased number of fighters among ISWAP is due to the victories achieved by IS elsewhere. Injustice applied by local government (s) also claimed to be another reason.
Comprehensive Summary of the Interview
Note: This is not a word-by-word translation but rather a comprehensive summary of all talking points while leaving unnecessary comments out. Also this does not represent my views.
For good analysis about what this means please read Ryan Cummings commentary here.
In his first interview with the al-Nabaa newspaper after being appointed as West Africa emir, Sheikh Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi talks about the history of jihad in the region, and the current state of the Islamic State soldiers in this province while facing African crusaders campaign.
Abu Mus’ab will also answer to questions to reveal the reality of military situation during the fight between the fighters of those blessed and the devil in West African forests.
Question: The history of unity and jihad in the area is old, tell us about it?
Praise to Allah and peace and blessings on his messenger.
I thank our brothers in the beginning of the Islamic State media about their hard-work protecting al-Mujahideen, and standing in the face of the infidel media, and I urge them to make more efforts and not get comfortable because their mission is as important as those in the battlefield. I also want to thank al-Nabaa newspaper for giving us the opportunity to defend our beloved cherished nation, and to disapprove the malicious campaign against West African province in particular.
To answer to your question the history of unity in West Africa is dated back to the first al-Hijricentury (AH), it was then when Islam entered this region and many people embraced it. However many others choose to follow the life of myths, which caused the country [Nigeria] to spend ages living in darkness, then came the occupation by infidels to destroy the country, exploit it, and entice people to follow them and forget about their religion. Then Sheikh Abou Youssef al-Barnawi called people to get united after the battle of Manhattan. Thankfully, since then al-Mujahideen did all they can to stop any attempts by crusaders from converting Muslims.
Question: Tell us about Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad, its creation, and most important events leading to its allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad came to existence in 1423 H (2002) when Sheikh Abou Youssef al-Barnawi founded a jihadist front, and called people to join it. However he did not start Jihad immediately as he initially claimed to be top priority. The group attracted important number of followers, and still the group did not have a name until the government carried an assault on its center in Maiduguri, called Ibn Timia. Abou Youssef was the most notable member to die that day, then members held meetings and pledged allegiance to Abou Bakr Shekau to be emir of the group, that’s when the name of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jihad was also given and the group began its fight.
The group witnessed several developments throughout its existence:
- The group was determined to free its members detained during the assault by the government.
- Send its fighters to the grand Sahara to train there.
- Move from guerilla attacks to seize territory.
- Then pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which surprised the entire world.
Question: What are the reasons that pushed you to pledge allegiance to IS despite the geographical distance?
First to obey what God and his messenger (peace be upon him). Second we saw that strength is in our unity and fight as one, just like how our enemies are against us together. Al-Khilafa (IS) brought back to our Muslim nation its glory that we have lost centuries ago, so why hesitate? Who’s going to support it and pledge allegiance to it if we don’t ourselves?
Question: The West gave ISWAP and Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad before the name of Boko Haram. Why the West insists on labeling you with that name?
Western media gave this name and it means that following Western educational system is forbidden. The media insisted on using it to turn those attracted by the west and its ideology. The name became also popular because it was easy to remember and pronounce. Despite our efforts to advocate for not using it, it became the most used by everyone while we continued to be opposed to it.
Question: We noticed you operate beyond your borders, can you tell us about communities, and countries you are fighting today?
Yes our operations are beyond the borders because these borders are just artificial to us. When neighboring countries started participating at fighting against us, we took the fight to them as well. These countries include Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Benin, and Nigeria financed by the West.
Question: Most of the news we hear is that joint operations are carried by African coalition (Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger), are Western countries also participating in these battles?
Yes, these countries are participating; we do see their fighter jets and surveillance airplanes flying over us frequently, especially lately while trying to chase us out of the Lake of Chad. That being said their involvement is limited to air support with no on ground presence, and we are ready for them if they decide to do so.
Question: How African forces are running the war against Caliphate soldiers in West African province?
Operations are run from joint operation room in Niger, and when they decide to attack, French and US send surveillance drones from their bases in Niger to locate us. Then joint African forces will carry an on ground assault backed by heavy air support.
Question: Joint forces talk about great success against Caliphate soldiers in West Africa, what are your thoughts about this?
They did capture certain areas from us but we are working on recapturing them. They say this is a victory for them but it’s not, a defeat is when you surrender and give up, but our soldiers are still standing and fighting.
Question: Joint forces use resurgence against al-Mujahideen. Did it happen? How did you deal with it? And how would you deal with it if happens?
Yes it did happen and here are know as stick campaign, but they were deterred and defeated.
Question: Who are those of sticks campaign and JTF forces? Your thoughts and how you deal with them?
Joint Task Force (JTF) was created by Nigerian military in 1433 H (2011) to fight us but we defeated them. Now they are non-existent and were replaced by other groups.
As for the “Sticks Campaign” people, they are civilians using sticks and swords to fight al-Mujahideen, armed by Nigerian military, charged to chase us out of towns we control, and were called Civilians JTF. Most of them have deserted while others are mainly now providing information about our locations because they [JTF members] are from the area and know it well. We call all those remaining with JTF to leave and they will be forgiven, otherwise they will get what they deserve.
Question: It is known that Christians aim at controlling most of Africa; can you tell us about this and the situation of countries fighting you?
Christians succeeded at controlling large parts of Africa. For instance in Nigeria at the end of last century there were representing 20% and were living mostly in the south. But today their numbers have increased and they control more areas, even in the north, and the percentage increased to 35%. They control areas where anyone Muslims cannot approach, but we promise to change that.
Question: Can you talk to us about Christians activities in West Africa and how you are facing the challenge?
Christians activity is enormous in this country [Nigeria] while taking advantage of poor living conditions of people. They entice Muslim population with money and possibilities to move to the West. Thus there are only few Mujahideen who are opposed to them. Westerners [Christians] are taking advantage of poor conditions of people by offering food and shelter to refugees, and proselytizing their children without noticing. For this reason we are trying to destroy every church when able to and kill as many as we can and those supporting them. Additionally we raise awareness about the danger of Christian organizations that only came here to proselytize while using humanitarian work as a cover up. The response against these organizations was great.
Question: Researchers and scholars everywhere in the world are engaged to destroy the image of al-Mujahideen, and what are most of the similarities raised by them in West Africa?
Of course we hear about this all the time and referring to us as “al-Khawarij,” and that we kill Muslims and drink their blood, etc..It’s surprising that the whole country is only concerned about “Al-Khawarij,” we are all surprised. We will continue to fight al-Kufr until the end of this world, and the preaching by scholars will not stop us. Scholars are kept quiet about all the crimes committed by Christians everywhere.
Question: What are your thoughts about the media reporting your attacks on mosques and markets where Muslims are present?
I am glad you asked this question because was looking for an opportunity to raise this issue. Those carried attacks on mosques, markets, and other venues belonging to Muslims do not represent IS, they only represent themselves. We also don’t consider or associate automatically people living in the area controlled by our enemy as traitors. We don’t authorize or approve such attacks.
Question: Western media talking about increased number of IS soldiers in West Africa, what are some of the reasons pushing youth joining you?
First reason is observing all the glory and legendary we are recording and accomplishing to the IS. Also its stand against the most notorious campaigns by crusaders, which brought confidence and believe in themselves to join al-Jihad. Second, witnessing how these countries leaders are encouraging the fight against anything related to Islam in addition to being treated unfairly.
Question: What is the current status if IS in West Africa during this war against crusaders?
It is strong and standing, and will continue to be a major burden for crusaders and their supporters.
Question: Do you have a message to Muslims in general and to al-Mujahideen in particular?
We tell all Muslims to raise their voices in their countries because all infidels are campaigning against it [country]. If you can’t do that, take the fight to their own countries [western], and advise you not to support crusaders against IS.
As for al-Mujahideen in West Africa province, I encourage you to stay strong and you are doing the right thing, God will not forget about you or turn his back on you while you are defending his religion.