Previously on this blog I provided the transcript of the relevant parts of a recent video issued by the Islamic State's West Africa wilaya (province) documenting defections to the Islamic State from the group of Abu Bakr Shekau in Sambisa Forest. Now in this week's issue of the Islamic State's al-Naba' newsletter we have a narrative account of the campaign the Islamic State's West Africa affiliate launched against Shekau's group.
The narrative account begins with the initial pledge of allegiance by Shekau to the Islamic State in 2015. However, similar to the line taken in the book against Shekau issued by the West Africa affiliate in 2018, the al-Naba' report claims that Shekau only gave allegiance because he felt compelled to do so, as most of his group's commanders and students of Islamic knowledge wanted to do so and he was supposedly afraid that they would defect en masse from him if he did not give allegiance. Despite the allegiance pledge, Shekau refused to listen to guidance from the Islamic State and many of his own subordinates to correct his deviations in creed and methodology, and so he was removed as head of the West Africa affiliate and most of the 'mujahideen' defected from him and remained loyal to the Islamic State. Shekau however still retained followers operating under a group of his own, and persisted in his beliefs such as declaring Muslims in general who reside in the abode of disbelief to be disbelievers, and thus he shed their blood, destroyed their property and even took their women as captive, diverting away from fighting the 'apostates' (i.e. the Nigerian army and security forces) except in self-defence. His group also attacked the Islamic State's West Africa affiliate, which initially tried to keep away from him to avoid confrontation.
Eventually though, 'the orders came' to destroy Shekau's group for good. It is not clear in the text from whom the orders came but it seems likely that the decision was made in consultation with the Islamic State's central leadership in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State's West Africa affiliate made preparations and launched the offensive into Sambisa Forest that was controlled by Shekau's group. This offensive took place over the course of 2-7 Shawwal 1442 AH (i.e. 14-19 May 2021 CE). In the end, according to this al-Naba' account, Shekau blew himself up after failed final attempts to convince him to surrender and repent. However, large numbers surrendered and defected. The article emphasises that killing those who call to innovation is justified by Islamic precedent and the narrative account concludes by saying that the destruction of Shekau's group and defections to the Islamic State demonstrate that the Islamic State has always been on the authentic middle path of the prophetic methodology between the extremists (the Khawarij) and the Murj'ites (who go too far in the opposite direction to that of the Khawarij).
Below is the full report translated by me. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
An authentic direction and the stations bear witness
Destroying the innovation of the Khawarij in Nigeria
And the return of the thousands to the group of the Muslims
(Photos from the recent allegiance pledges of the mujahideen in West Africa Wilaya)
al-Naba': West Africa Wilaya
The ferocity of the war with the disbelievers and apostates has not been such as to preoccupy the Islamic State away from striving to unite the ranks of the Muslims and combating division and innovation and what results from them from distortion and deviation of creed. And it was not for it to turn a blind eye to what the people of extremism bring about from oppression and transgression and spilling sacrosanct blood. And this is what was so regarding the state of affairs of the soldiers of the Caliphate in the West Africa wilaya [i.e. their state of affairs was such that they did not turn a blind eye] when they launched a wide-spread campaign in the beginning of the last month of Shawwal on the Sambisa Forest that was the base of the 'Abu Bakr Shekau' group that deviated from the path of guidance and split from the group and contravened the Sunna and followed the innovation of extremism by which it destroyed itself and by which it distressed the servants and land.
In this report we will show the stages of the appearance of the problem and its ramifications for the reality of the jihad and the mujahideen in West Africa, and the role of the Islamic State in confronting it over the past years through the proof and evidence and then repelling it by force and the spear, for indeed God Almighty prevents by authority what He does not prevent by the Qur'an, such that God Almighty facilitated for His servants to bring about unity and close ranks and eliminate the innovation, and to God be praise.
The circumstances of the allegiance pledge of 'Shekau' to the Islamic State
In the beginning, when the Islamic Caliphate was announced and the Imam was appointed, the mujahideen in Nigeria rushed to make contact with the abode of the Caliphate and the most prominent of their leaders there were keen to pledge allegiance and they strove to convince their amir at the time- 'Abu Bakr Shekau'- to pledge allegiance to it and rally under its banner. But he tarried and delayed in the beginning of the matter, but when he saw the determination of most of the leaders and students of 'Ilm to pledge allegiance and felt that his refraining from that would inevitable lead to their defection from him and their independence from his group, he submitted to the matter and was compelled to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. But he did not fulfil his allegiance pledge and did not embrace the methodology of the Islamic State as the leaders of the mujahideen hoped there, but rather he insisted on his innovation and manhaj disturbance, especially in what concerns the ruling on those who inhabit the abode. So the leaders there began calling him to the truth and to abandon extremism and embrace the prophetic methodology, but he met them with repelling and oppression and killing some of them on flimsy pretexts! And he began engaging in double-crossing and shirk from the allegiance pledge and stating that he was deceived in its matter.
The decision to remove him from the wilaya
So the people of the affair rushed to refer detailed reports to the abode of the Caliphate explaining what the situation had come to. So the trustees of the matter became aware of the truth of what was happening, and they advised him and they advised him and explained to him that in which he had deviated from the methodology of the Sunnis in the issues of the rulings of the abode and other things besides them, but he insisted on his falsehood and rejected submission to the truth. So the decision came to remove him from the wilaya, and then he openly broke his allegiance pledge and openly displayed falsehood and revolted against the group of the Muslims, and returned to operate in the name of his cancelled group and declared takfir on those who disagreed with him! So most of the mujahideen sided with the truth and separated from him in manhaj and place and of the areas controlled by the wilaya, only the Sambisa forest area north of the Borno area remained subject to him.
Corrupt beliefs and great crimes
Among the ways in which he contravened the manhaj of the Sunnis, was his assertion that the principle in people is disbelief! And he declared takfir on the general mass of the Muslims living in the abode of disbelief, and he declared takfir on the one who did not declare takfir on them! So there resulted from his corrupt beliefs barbaric crimes against the Muslims, for he made permissible to shed the sacrosanct blood and made fair game the protected property and he attacked the mosques and markets, and he destroyed the villages and facilities, and he turned the compass of war to that and was no longer attacking the barracks of the apostates except in defence! So he fought the people of Islam and abandoned the people of idols, and he killed the Sunna and revived innovation, and he distorted the jihad and delayed it for years.
Also he and those with him began attacking the positions of the soldiers of the Caliphate and attacking them from behind, after he declared takfir on them and incited his followers against them. Note that they are the ones who began the fighting for they were attacking and the Dawla was defending, and calling on them to stop that, and it actively kept away from them out of fear of confrontation with them, but they began cutting the paths on those striving to the Dawla from the muhajireen and others besides them, and obstructing those neighbouring it from the mass of the Muslims, through plunder and stealing their crops and livestock, and taking their women as captive and killing their men.
The calamity of innovation on the servants and the land
And before this bitter reality, the orders came for the necessity of putting a stop to his evil that became critical, and after review and observation in preparation to attack his region, it became clear that his group was heading to the abyss on all levels, for he had emptied them of the equipment they had, and had stripped most of his soldiers of weapons out of fear of revolt against him, and as a result of takfir of the masses of the Muslims and making fair game their property, the pastors and farmers had fled from the areas of his control, which made the spectre of hunger and famine weigh heavily on the region, while despair and hopelessness oppressed his followers, and that is no surprise for that is the curse of innovation and the consequences of contravening the Sunna.
The battles of the first day
And after the mujahideen came together from different sectors in the wilaya and planned the expedition and made preparations for it they set out on Friday evening (3 Shawwal) and proceeded in the night in order to catch by surprise on the following day (Saturday) the followers of 'Shekau' in the middle of their four centres and the base of their leader, so they assaulted them despite the booby traps that mined the paths. And they continued their advance under the shower of gunfire and mortars such that they came to blows and clashed with them, so when the war intensified, his followers began to retreat. And one of them blew up his explosive-rigged car and likewise two others blew themselves up. But God kept safe His servants and only light wounds occurred, while the mujahideen anticipated others wearing explosive belts and killed them with machine guns before they could blow up their belts. They also killed and wounded a number of others, and they burned two vehicles of theirs during the battle. So terror spread among the rest of them and they were routed oblivious to the world, and their leader fled and the mujahideen did not manage to capture him at the time despite being on the look-out for him. And they occupied the rest of their day with clearing and sweeping his centre.
(Photo caption: one of the brothers returning to the group participates with his brothers in the Katafila battles)
Dozens resisted and thousands returned
And on the following day of Sunday (4 Shawwal), the mujahideen began to pursue the remnants of the extremists on the paths of the region: providing them security and calling on them to repent, lay aside their weapons, and join the convoy of the Caliphate, so only dozens of them resisted them and those people are the ones who were holed up in the centre of Ghowbra with their weapons and explosives they had planted on the ways leading to the centre, so they blew up some of them on two vehicles of the mujahideen and they skirmished with them for an hour, but despite that, when they learnt of the killing of their leader, and saw that the soldiers of the Caliphate had fulfilled their duties to those they provided security and did not afflict them with something disliked, they rushed to announce repentance and stop the fighting, and to God be praise.
Da'wa to the offspring with goodness and mildness
And on Monday (5 Shawwal), after the imposing of control on the base of 'Shekau' and the fleeing of most of the people from their homes and their dispersal and hiding in the forests, as they thought that there would befall them the likes of what they had experienced from the extremists in the region from the killing of the Muslim masses and the plundering of their wealth whenever they entered one of the villages: then the soldiers of the Caliphate decided to meet up with them and make clear to them their da'wa and manhaj. So they distributed da'wa publications and directed voice messages to some of the notables to help the people of the area. And the mujahideen patrolled the ways and centres announcing their da'wa and aims through voice amplifiers, and only a short while later the offspring gathered with a number of the fighters among the mujahideen in rejoicing, and others among them remained hidden in fear and awaiting.
Destroying the head of innovation
In the meantime, the soldiers of the Caliphate continued to inspect and look for 'Shekau' in the forests, until they found him with a number of his bodyguards on board four vehicles, such that violent clashes broke out between the two sides, which led to the killing and wounding of some of his followers, and the rest of the resorted to fleeing on board one of the vehicles, while their leader fled on foot to hide again among the forests. So the soldiers of the Caliphate followed their traces and undertook a deep search for two days until they found him on Wednesday (7 Shawwal) with seven of his bodyguards under a large tree, so they asked them to hand themselves over and they pressed them for an hour in advice, excuse-granting and warning, so six of them responded and handed themselves over, but their leader and one of those accompanying him refused. And while the mujahideen were speaking to him and urging him to repent and surrender, he indicated to his companion to prepare his weapons so the mujahideen noticed him and anticipated him by firing a bullet in his head that killed him as a result. And then 'Shekau' blew up his explosive belt, so he killed himself and ended his life.
And we have in the killing of the 'head of innovation' predecessors
And we have in killing him and fighting him predecessors, for he was a head in the innovation and calling to it, causing the misleading of groups of the sons of the Muslims from the guidance, and the caller to innovation is to be killed especially if there is no other means of destroying his innovation and saving those under it.
The Sheikh of Islam Ibn Taymiyya said: 'And the caller to innovation deserves the punishment by the agreement of the Muslims, and his punishment is sometimes to be in killing, and sometimes in something besides it, just as the predecessors killed Jahm bin Safwan, and al-Ja'ad bin Dirham, and Ghaylan al-Qadri, and others besides them.' And he said: 'And therefore most of the predecessors command to kill the caller to innovation who misleads the people on account of the corruption he sows in the religion, regardless of whether they say he is a disbeliever or not'- (Majmu' al-Fatawa). And likewise Sheikh Abdullah bin al-Sheikh Muhammad said: 'And most of the predecessors consider killing of the caller to innovation, because of what occurs at his hands from corruption in the region, regardless of whether they say he is a disbeliever or not'- (al-Durar al-Sunniya).
And the land shook with the takbir!
And the whole world saw the scenes of joy and coming together on the day the world shook with the takbir and the tahlil in joy at the unity of the rank and the striking of the Sunna and the return to the path of guidance and the convoy of light, in a scene that enraged the disbelievers and hypocrites and all those who have sickness in their hand, who should all die in their range.
Exclusive: And in this regard, a senior source confirmed to al-Naba' that the mujahideen, immediately after the end of the battle, began holding councils of da'wa and clarification for all the brothers who returned to the truth, to correct what seemed dubious to them from issues or in which they had been deceived or in which they contravened the belief of the Sunnis. And the allegiance pledge was only on the prophetic methodology and the mujahideen will not be content with any deviation from it or replacement of it, by the permission of God Almighty. Also the source revealed that the mujahideen sent envoys to some of the remote groupings that were afflicted by the innovation of extremism, calling on them to repent from what they were upon and to correct their course and to join the convoy of the group.
Exclusive: From another angle, a military source pointed out to al-Naba' the first field gains that have been realised following this blessed step. And the source said that the recent attacks that targeted the Nigerian army in the localities of Mainti, Kandugha, Komshi, Katafila and other places came after the mujahideen entered the Sambisa Forest and the mujahideen there joined the ranks of the Islamic State. And the media office documented some of that in the recent release.
An authentic direction and the stations bear witness
And thus the soldiers of the Caliphate- by the grace of God Almighty- have closed a chapter of evil and opened a chapter of good, for they have killed the innovation and revived the Sunna and united the mujahideen. And that is a practical statement more powerful than all the statements regarding the soundness of the path of the Islamic State and its innocence from the innovations of he extremists, and its history and past bear witness to that, and it remains since its foundation a middle path between the Khawarij and Murj'ites on the prophetic methodology, and praise be to God.