Suspected Boko Haram militants shot and killed a local Islamic leader in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria today.
Alhaji Idrissa Timta, the emir of Gwoza, was shot in his car while traveling in a convoy to the funeral of the emir of Gombe, who passed away recently in London. Two policemen were also killed in the attack.
The emirs of Uba and Askira were also in the convoy and reportedly escaped the ambush. Their flight from the scene initially created some confusion, leading some to speculate that they had been kidnapped. However, they have since been located.
This is not the first time that traditional Muslim leaders have been targeted by Boko Haram. However, it is a relatively rare action taken by the group. Boko Haram perceives the traditional leaders as tied to the secular government they oppose, “accusing them of selling out.”
In January 2013, Emir Al Haji Ado Bayero of Kano, regarded as the second-most important Muslim leader in Nigeria behind the Sultan of Sokoto, was targeted in a Boko Haram assassination attempt. He was protected by his bodyguards and driver, who were killed, as gunmen surrounded his convoy.
Boko Haram brazenly kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in northern Nigeria in mid-April. The ensuing worldwide condemnation prompted the United Nations to add Boko Haram to its al Qaeda sanctions list last week.
Even with increased international attention and assistance offered to the Nigerian government, Boko Haram continues to operate with impunity. Earlier this week, the group attacked a military base and police barracks in Yobe state in northern Nigeria, killing over 30 security personnel. And yesterday, suspected Boko Haram militants on motorbikes killed 32 civilians in the northeastern village of Gurmushi, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.