Boko Haram leader fires back at Twitter campaign

Boko Haram sent a new video over the weekend to Agence France Presse, boasting of the group’s latest feats while mocking the global hashtag campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

Standing in front of his soldiers and various military vehicles, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced in the video: “We were the ones that detonated bomb in Abuja, that filthy city; we were responsible for the bomb in Kano, in Plateau. We were the ones that sent a female bomber to the refinery in Lagos but Adams Oshiomole the governor of Edo state said it was a fire disaster.”

On June 25, the group bombed a shopping center in the capital city of Abuja shortly before Nigeria played Argentina in the World Cup tournament. The attack killed at least 21 people. Two days prior, an explosion at a school in Kano killed at least eight people.

Shekau, designated a global terrorist by the US State Department in June 2012, also paid homage in the video to other terrorist leaders, sending his “regards” to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasr al Wuhayshi, and Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel, head of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

With respect to Boko Haram’s local aims, Shekau threatened Nigerian Sheikh Yahaya Jingir, leader of Nigeria’s Izala movement, declaring “we will deal with you, you servant of democracy.” Jingir, who has spoken out against terrorism, has stated that Boko Haram was sponsored to “smear Islam.”

In reference to the international Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls, Shekau stated, “Nigerians are saying BringBackOurGirls, and we are telling Jonathan to bring back our arrested warriors, our army.” The statement apparently refers to Shekau’s position that the fate of the girls is tied to the release of Boko Haram fighters from Nigerian prisons. In late May, the Nigerian government reportedly called off a deal to swap 100 low-level Boko Haram sympathizers for “some” of the kidnapped girls, after the US, the UK, France, and Israel warned against negotiating with the terror group.

In early May, the terrorist leader appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from their boarding school in Chibok, northern Nigeria in April. Since their abduction, 57 girls escaped the group’s clutches, leaving 219 currently unaccounted for and thought to be in Boko Haram’s custody. While the Twitter campaign generated awareness of the plight of the kidnapped girls, it has not returned the girls to their families, nor is it likely to.

Shekau also used the latest video to highlight recent enhancements to Boko Haram’s arsenal. He claimed: “We have recovered several arms from the Damboa military base attack including armoured tanks and Kalashnikov rifles (pointing at the stolen arms). Look at what God has given us free of charge; we filled our vans with ammunitions like sands. This is what is called religion and worship.” In addition to seizing weapons, the group has a history of raiding local markets for food and other supplies.

Just prior to the video’s release, suspected Boko Haram militants blew up a bridge linking Maiduguri and Biu in Nigeria’s northeast on July 12. By destroying the bridge, which sits on a major northern Nigerian highway, Boko Haram has further limited outside access to the group’s base camps in the Sambisa Forest, insulating and protecting them.

Suspected Boko Haram members also attacked Dille in southern Borno yesterday, shooting at villagers and torching homes and churches. Responding to the attack, a Nigerian government warplane fired on the area to push the fighters back. Reports indicate that at least six civilians were killed by the airstrike. Sources noted that some 20 militants were killed by local vigilantes but their deaths were unconfirmed.

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