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Former Boko Haram leader posts proof-of-life video

Nigerian military claimed Abubakar Shekau suffered serious injuries in an August air strike


Abubakar Shekau in a 2014 Boko Haram video. Associated Press

Former Boko Haram leader posts proof-of-life video

The former leader of Nigerian-born extremist group Boko Haram released a video on Sunday, countering the military’s claim he suffered serious injuries in an airstrike last month.

In the 40-minute recording, Abubakar Shekau addressed his message to “the tyrants of Nigeria in particular and the west of Africa in general.”

“You broadcast the news and published it in your media outlets that you injured me and killed me, and here I am,” he said, speaking from an unknown location. “I will not get killed until my time comes.”

Nigeria’s air force said last month it killed several senior members of Boko Haram and severely injured Shekau. It had made similar assertions in the past, before Shekau released videos contradicting the claims.

In the latest video, Shekau also addressed the parents of the kidnapped Chibok girls, saying they will only see their daughters if the Nigerian government swaps them for detained extremist fighters. Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Information and Culture released a report detailing its efforts so far to free the kidnapped girls. The report said the leadership tussle within the extremist group has delayed the government’s efforts to negotiate the girls’ release.

“You have not seen the worst yet,” Shekau warned the people of Chibok.

But it’s not clear how much of Boko Haram Shekau still controls, or how many of the kidnapped girls remain in his clutches. Last month, Islamic State released a statement naming a new Boko Haram leader, raising questions about who’s really in charge of the group.

Nigerian army spokesman Col. Sani Usman dismissed Shekau’s video as a propaganda tool that shows his desperation. Defense spokesman Gen. Rabe Abubakar agreed, saying whether Shekau is alive or dead is irrelevant to the security forces’ mission.

“We will continue to hit them hard, so the only soft ground is non-traditional media, where all stories can be fashioned to serve their evil and inglorious acts,” Abubakar said. “They know what we have done and what we are up to, they are losing by the days.”

Boko Haram has increased its attacks on security forces in recent weeks. The Nigerian military announced today Islamic extremists killed eight soldiers and wounded 17 others in two Sunday attacks. The troops killed 22 militants in the battle.

Despite the attacks, the state government has continued to reconstruct many of the towns ravaged by Boko Haram. The National Emergency Management Agency said 5,400 displaced persons have returned to their homes in parts of Dikwa. Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima moved temporarily to the town of Bama to oversee reconstruction there and encourage people to move back home. Boko Haram staged several attacks on Bama and seized control of the town in 2014. The governor commissioned a 500-member civilian task force to work with official forces to ensure security in the area.

“I want the reconstruction work to take proper shape before I leave,” Shettima said. “Bama is one of the worst affected areas, and we will move from here to other parts of the state.”


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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