Boko Haram’s Man Chari: Abubakar Shekau’s Missing Military Amir

Publication: Militant Leadership Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 7

Ever since Boko Haram began to conquer territory in northeastern Nigeria in 2013, Man Chari has been an important leadership figure—specifically, the “military amir.” He was also the right-hand man to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in the months before Shekau’s pledge of loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) in March 2015. During that time, he was frequently seen in Boko Haram videos organizing and carrying out shari’a punishments (such videos, which were on YouTube, have since been removed).

After Shekau’s pledge to IS, which was released in audio, Chari was seen in the first visual version of the pledge in a video that showed him leading a group of about 20 fighters putting their hands together and declaring their loyalty to Abubakar al-Baghdadi (, October 7, 2017). He also led prayers during the first Eid al-Fitr that Boko Haram celebrated under its new branding as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in 2015 (, September 28, 2015). Now under the banner of ISWAP, Chari continued to carry out shari’a punishments, including killing a young boy and a goat on allegations of “bestiality” (, November 2, 2015).

When ISWAP split in 2016 and Shekau was removed from his leadership position, he then resurrected Boko Haram. A loyal deputy, Chari followed Shekau and was the first Boko Haram commander to condemn Shekau’s replacement in ISWAP, Abu Musab al-Barnawi (, August 7, 2016). However, in late 2016 Shekau released an audio in which he admitted to killing one of his loyal spokesmen, Abu Zinnira (Vanguard, February 24, 2017). In that same audio, Shekau indicated that Man Chari had moved to another base but Shekau did not indicate he killed Chari. Shekau is well known for killing sub-commanders for the slightest infractions; it could not be discounted that he killed Chari as well. Nevertheless, Chari resurfaced in Boko Haram’s Eid al-Fitr video in 2017 prominently surrounded by a security escort (YouTube, July 1, 2017). This suggested not only that Chari was still a leader in the group, but that he was still highly respected. That video, however, is the last time Chari has been seen in any Boko Haram videos.

Man Chari is one of the Boko Harm leaders whose background is little known except that he has had an important leadership role in Boko Haram since at least 2014. The Nigerian army knows his importance and has, for example, listed him as one of the 100 “Most Wanted” Boko Haram suspects—he was listed as #28, although the rankings were in no particular order (Premium Times, October 29, 2015). There are suspicions Chari may have defected to ISWAP, which considers itself to be a rival of Shekau’s Boko Haram. This is possible considering there are still no reports of Chari’s death. If, indeed, Chari has defected to ISWAP, it would be yet another death knell to Shekau’s hopes of ever leading a united jihadist group in Nigeria. On the contrary, it would prove to empower ISWAP and seal ISWAP’s role as the current and future leader of the jihadist insurgency in Nigeria.