MS Risk Blog

Boko Haram’s Leader Reported Dead by Nigerian Military

Posted on in Nigeria title_rule

New claims emerged last week that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau may be dead, however while this is not the first time that such rumours have emerged, the fact that Nigeria’s military high command made the announcement likely signifies that such a propaganda statement was made to increase the military’s low-morale and to demonstrate to Nigerians that they are winning in the war against Boko Haram, despite the militant group carrying out almost daily attacks.

Rumours began circling last Thursday when the Nigerian military indicated that “a seriously wounded high ranking terrorist leader” had been captured during clashes in Konduga, Borno state. According to military officials, the unnamed militant was wounded and said to have been treated at a military medical facility. Speculation further increased over the weekend after a photograph began circulating depicting a heavily bearded man said to have been killed in Konduga. On Monday, army spokesman General Olajide Olaleye disclosed “at this point, I will not be able to confirm or deny the information,” adding that an investigation was on-going.

With two previous public statements about Shekau’s death, the international community has not been quick in applauding Nigerian efforts in combating the militant group. On 30 July 2009, police in Maiduguri disclosed that Shekau, then deputy to Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf, was one of about 200 members of the group killed during clashes. That claim was dispelled less then a year later when Shekau appeared in a video clip. On August 19 last year, the security task force in northeastern Nigeria issued a statement indicating that Shekau “may have died” from a gunshot wound after a clash with Nigerian soldiers. However several weeks later, another video emerged. Since September last year, there have been ten Boko Haram videos released, the latest of them on August 24 when Shekau proclaimed the captured Borno town of Gwoza as part of an Islamic caliphate.

Many are currently sceptical that Shekau was killed in fighting in Konduga as it is highly unlikely that as Boko Haram commander, he would have been involved in such fighting. It is possible that the death in Konduga could have been that of a “body-double” and not actually Shekau as he is too valuable to the group to fight amongst the militants. The more likely scenario is that Shekau currently remains at one of Boko Haram’s main operational and logistical bases, likely located within Sambisa Forest or the Mandara Mountain range, which straddles the Nigerian and Cameroonian borders. Furthermore, it is likely that in the coming months, the emergence of a new video depicting Shekau will dispel last week’s rumours.


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