Was This Image of ISWAP Men Taken in Nigeria?

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On May 24, 2021, political activist Nnamdi Kanu shared an image of the alleged Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) group in a public gathering, showcasing their firearms. With over 240 quote replies, this was flagged by a number of social media users as a false claim.

On the same day, similar claims were shared on Facebook with the same image.

Background

Over time, there have been underlying differences between Boko Haram and its breakaway group, ISWAP, over Lake Chad, a territory dominated by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The most recent incident is an attempted suicide by Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, to avoid capture by ISWAP insurgents. Shekau has falsely been declared dead multiple times in the past. However, this one seems different. In an audio clip released by Boko Haram’s rival group, Abubakar Shekau died by detonating a suicide vest on May 19, 2021. Official media sites of the Islamic State have not commented on the claims of his death.

Verification

Results from a reverse image search show that this image was shared on Twitter on May 21, 2021, a few days before it appeared under false claims. The tweet describing the firearms identified in this image attributes it to the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP). The militants had captured suspected thieves in Ansongo town, in the eastern part of Mali.

An additional image shared by this account shows three men seated on the ground, blindfolded. These photos were shared before these insurgents allegedly cut off these men’s hands and feet.

Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau is said to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in March 2015. ISIS endorsed Boko Haram, rebranding it into, ISWAP. However, less than a year later, differences within its leadership saw a sect splitting away from Shekau’s leadership. ISWAP is believed to have remained a strong group over the years.

A report published by the International Crisis Group states that ISWAP is known to use extreme and violent approaches to exercise law and order. One being the cutting off of hands of alleged thieves. It also believes that the Quran mandates the killing of adulterers, although some sections are more lenient than others. Even with all these, ISWAP’s system of justice is considered less repressive than that of Boko Haram.

Reports say, in a plan to extend its network, ISWAP has established links with the Islamic State with the Greater Sahel (ISGS), in Mali. These two being part of ISIS, they were merged in March 2019.

Verdict

An image shared of the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) group, alleged to have been taken in Nigeria is MISLEADING. This image was taken in Mali by the same group exercising a Shari’a punishment on suspected thieves.

 

This story was produced by Africa Uncensored in partnership with Code for Africa with support from Deutsche Welle Akademie.

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Nyakerario Omari

Nyakerario J. Omari is a Kenyan writer and journalist with a passion for in-depth stories told through documentaries. She has an interest in reporting matters concerning health, crime and human rights.