Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. Image from Vanguard.
A new video has surfaced showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claiming responsibility for the Dec. 2 attack on military installations in Maiduguri, and threatening attacks in the West. The emergence of the video further contradicts reports that he was killed several months ago.
In the 40-minute video obtained by AFP yesterday, Shekau is dressed in military fatigues and vest, and has a Kalashnikov rifle under his arm. He speaks for 19 minutes, then the rest of the video shows footage of the attack. The 46-second clip released by AFP contains excerpts showing Shekau speaking, Boko Haram fighters entering Maiduguri in trucks, and fighters calmly in control of the military air base as aircraft and buildings burn.
In his speech in Arabic, Hausa, and Kanuri, Shekau reportedly claims that the whole world fears him, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and even the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Addressing the United States, Shekau calls it a “prostitute nation of infidels and liars,” and goes on to threaten that Boko Haram plans to attack outside Nigeria and even the US itself: “You are boasting you are going to join forces with Nigeria to crush us. Bloody liars. You couldn’t crush us when we were carrying sticks. By Allah, we will never stop. Don’t think we will stop in Maiduguri. Tomorrow you will see us in America itself. Our operation is not confined to Nigeria. It is for the whole world.”
Shekau’s threat follows the US’ addition of Boko Haram to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorist entities on Nov. 13 along with a splinter faction known as Ansaru. Shekau himself was added to the US list of global terrorists on June 21, 2012, along with Khalid al Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kamba, both of whom “have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
In the State Department’s official announcement of the Boko Haram designation, the group was described as “a Nigeria-based militant group with links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that is responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians.” Ansaru, on the other hand, was described as focusing “on Nigerian military and Western targets.”
Boko Haram’s tactics have shifted lately, and are becoming more like those of Ansaru. As indicated by the recent attack in Maiduguri, Boko Haram has changed its tactics and grown more sophisticated. The group is now prepared to directly attack military installations, and in large numbers.
This is the second time in the past 30 days that Shekau has appeared in a video to claim responsibility for a Boko Haram attack. On Nov. 3, Shekau featured in a video titled “the Battle of Damaturu,” in which he claimed to have personally commanded the operation that killed 35 people on Oct 24. While the authenticity of the clip could not be independently verified in November, Shekau spoke in Arabic, Hausa, and Kanuri, as he did in the video obtained yesterday. The Damaturu attack was Boko Haram’s first significant raid in a major urban center in some time.
The attacks continue
Following the Maiduguri attack, investigations have begun into suspected Boko Haram collaborators within the military. According to President Jonathan, the Maiduguri attack confirms Boko Haram’s external sponsorship, and that poverty is not a factor in the insurgency. President Jonathan has given his support to the creation of an African rapid response force that could help fight Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram attacks continue. The military has claimed that Boko Haram is forcefully conscripting in Borno to replenish its numbers, and there have been a series of suspected Boko Haram attacks along the Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu highway.
The Nigerian military has reported that at least 25 Boko Haram fighters were killed yesterday near the highway. According to The Vanguard, Boko Haram members crossed the road from their camps in the Sambisa Forest and exchanged gunfire with troops. Three fighters were reported killed in the attack, while many more were killed by a military airstrike as they fled.
All this by a man reported dead in August
The escalation in Boko Haram attacks follows an Aug. 1 report in the Huffington Post that Abubaker Shekau had been shot and deposed by his own followers as a prelude to peace negotiations with the Nigerian government. The report alleged that Boko Haram’s leadership had sent representatives to the Nigerian capital Abuja on June 25, where they revealed to the government that Shekau was no longer their leader. The report quoted Imam Liman Ibrahim, described as “the spiritual leader of Boko Haram,” as stating that Shekau’s teachings were becoming increasingly harsh, and that “the beheadings, the killings, the recent death of students … this is not the way of the Holy Qu’ran. We could tolerate it no longer.”
According to the report, Shekau had been given a choice of joining the peace dialogue, forming his own sect, or being killed, and had subsequently been shot in the lower leg, thigh, and shoulder. The sight of a limping Shekau in a video clip recovered by the military after a raid on a Boko Haram camp seemed to corroborate the story.
Clearly reports of Shekau’s demise have been exaggerated.