Boko Haram: Amidst conflicting claims over terrorist leader’s dead-or-alive status, Nigerian army insists he’s killed.
Abuja (AFP) – Nigeria’s military on Wednesday (September 24, 2014) claimed for the first time that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was dead, as it said troops had killed a lookalike who had been posing as the militant commander.
Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade told reporters in Abuja that a heavily bearded Islamist fighter identified as Mohammed Bashir died during fighting in the town of Konduga, in Borno state.
Bashir, who was said to have had several aliases, had “been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group”, he added.
The announcement is the first time the military has said publicly that Shekau was dead after two previous claims by security sources that he had died in July 2009 and in late June 2013.
The military did not, however, say how or when Shekau died.
Earlier this year, the spokeswoman for the country’s secret police, Marilyn Ogar, said “the original Shekau is dead” and that the person appearing in numerous videos was an imposter.
Olukolade said on Wednesday that the actual identity of Boko Haram’s leader was not relevant. The name “Shekau” had become a “brand name for the terrorists”, he told a news conference.
“The Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title, as well as all the terrorists that seek to violate the freedom and territory of Nigeria,” he added.
The United States last year put up a $7 million reward for Shekau’s capture as part of its Rewards for Justice programme and designated him a “global terrorist”.
There has long been speculation in Nigeria and beyond about whether he was actually still alive.
It has been claimed that he actually died in 2003 and his name has since been used by at least two others.
They include Boko Haram members called Abdullahi Damasak, who was succeeded on his death by a Mustapha Chad, according to sources close to the group.
Olukolade told the briefing that Bashir had several identities: “Bashir Mohammed, alias Abubakar Shekau, alias Abacha Abdullahi Geidam, alias Damasak, etc.”
Whether the announcement will end speculation about Shekau’s true identity or death is unclear and there was no independent verification of the claims.
The military showed footage of an amateur video recording of the fighting in Konduga, in which bodies littered the streets.
“That character tallies with the one that has been showing himself on the video,” said Olukolade, pointing to a bearded man lying dead on the ground alongside another slain fighter.
A close-up still photograph of the man’s face was also shown alongside a screengrab from a Boko Haram video of Shekau holding an assault rifle.
An arrow pointed to a small growth on the forehead of both men.
Analysts said earlier this week that they were sceptical about claims that he had been killed, as the same photograph shown by the military circulated online.
Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst at Red24 risk consultants in South Africa, said he thought it unlikely that Boko Haram’s commander would be in the thick of battle in Konduga or anywhere else.
But Jacob Zenn, from the Jamestown Foundation think-tank in the United States, said the death of a body double in Konduga was plausible.
“It’s important to note, however, that Shekau may have had ‘doubles’ who appeared in some videos. And the army has a record of being incorrect about claims of Shekau’s death,” he said.
He said see whether another video emerged “from Shekau — or someone who purports to be Shekau”.
Nigeria’s military has been under pressure to regain territory lost to the Islamists in the far northeast in recent weeks, and has been trying to push back against the extremists.
Olukolade claimed that during fighting in and around Konduga, a number of Boko Haram fighters were captured along with their equipment, while scores of others allegedly surrendered elsewhere.
On Nigeria’s Boko Haram, New York Times Nick Kristof misanalysis on CNN Fareed Zakaria’s GPS. By Chido Nwangwu
A few minutes ago, today May 11, 2014, on #CNN@FareedZakaria, the continuation of fanciful misanalyses and non-factual views about the root causes and “explanation” for the unrelenting mayhem unleashed by the violent Islamic sect #BokoHaram in#Nigeria were repeated by the award-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof @NickKristof and Eliza Griswold, author of the new book The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam.
Kristof especially, wrongly, argues that Boko Haram and similar groups are driven by economic disparity in Nigeria. not true in fact and logic.
Griswold says with a certain antiseptic disdain that Boko Haram is a “mess.” Simply a mess? After killing at least 2,000 Nigerians within 5 years.
Griswold adds it is more a struggle between moderate and extreme Muslims…. Seriously? I disagree.
First, I know that targeting and slaughtering and bombing, primarily, christians and demanding they leave the mainly Islamic northern region of Nigeria and visiting “unholy” fire and thunder on others they consider “Children of a lesser God” is mechanized, religio-political bigotry. It is not economic; it is not moderates versus extremists.
Second, as a child survivor of the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra war, I know the familiar consequences of mis-analyzing and understating the militarized, offensive moves of bigots, especially armed and well-funded groups such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
I will close this brief response, for now; and available to debate the Boko Haram and Nigeria’s religio-political crises, here and elsewhere. •Dr. Chido Nwangwu, moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (Governance, Security, and Peace in Africa) December 7-8, 2012 at Brown University in Rhode Island and former adviser on Africa business/issues to the Mayor of Houston, is the Founder & Publisher of Houston-based USAfrica multimedia networks since 1992, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; CLASSmagazine, AchebeBooks.com, the USAfrica-powered e-groups of AfricanChristians, Nigeria360 and the largest pictorial events megasite on the African diaspora www.PhotoWorks.TV . He was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn e-mail: Chido247@Gmail.com wireless 1-832-45-CHIDO (24436).
Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and the Nigeria360 e-group. https://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/
IF any of the Nigerian President’s 100 advisers has the polite courage for the extraordinary task of reminding His Excellency of his foremost, sworn, constitutional obligation to the national interest about security and safety of Nigerians and all who sojourn in Nigeria, please whisper clearly to Mr. President that I said, respectfully: Nigerians, at home and abroad, are still concerned and afraid for living in what I call Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. FULL text of commentary, exclusively, at USAfricaonline.com https://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/