By Aminu Abubakar (AFP)
KANO, NIGERIA — Nigeria's army said Monday that the leader of
Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, branded a "global terrorist" by the
United States, may have died following a clash with soldiers.
reports "available to the (military) revealed that Abubakar Shekau, the
most dreaded and wanted Boko Haram terrorists leader, may have died," a
"It is greatly believed that Shekau might have died between 25 July to 3 August 2013."
There was no independent confirmation of the claim, and previous reports of Shekau's death have turned out to be false.
to the statement, Shekau was shot on June 30 during a clash with troops
at a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa forest in northeastern Nigeria and
then taken across the border into Cameroon.
The army statement was
contradictory, saying at one point that Shekau had been "mortally
wounded" and "never recovered" after treatment received in Cameroon.
Shekau has been considered the leader of the main Islamist extremist faction of Boko Haram.
group's insurgency has left at least 3,600 people dead since 2009,
including killings by the security forces, who have been accused of
Nigeria's military began a sweeping offensive in the
northeast in May aiming to end the insurgency. It has however often
exaggerated claims related to the drive.
spokesman Brigadier General Chris Olukolade seemed to distance himself
from the army statement when contacted by AFP, saying security forces
were still seeking conclusive evidence of Shekau's death.
"We are yet to get confirmation on that," he said. "We are talking to our troops in the field."
Bawa Wase, a security analyst and rapporteur at the UN Department for
Safety and Security, expressed doubts over the report, saying it could
be a "mirage".
"They should have gone as far as locating where
Shekau was buried, exhumed the body, conducted an autopsy and DNA tests
to confirm that," he told AFP.
"It would be laughable to make such claims without going ahead to test its veracity."
A US embassy spokeswoman said she did not yet have any information on the claim and was not immediately able to comment.
The United States in March put a $7 million (5.3 million euros) bounty on Shekau's head.
has often sent out video messages from unknown locations. In a video
message seen by AFP on August 12, a man who appeared to be Shekau
insisted that he was in good health and referred to attacks in early
The military statement said the video was a fake.
recent video ... by the purported sect leader was dramatised by an
imposter to hoodwink the sect members to continue with the terrorism and
to deceive the undiscerning minds," the statement said.
Haram has claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in
Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, though the
group is believed to have a number of factions with varying aims.
Nigeria's 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Christian south and mostly Muslim north.
was seen as the second-in-command of Boko Haram at the time of a 2009
uprising put down by a brutal military assault which left some 800
The leader at the time, Mohammed Yusuf, was captured
by soldiers and handed over to police. Yusuf was later killed when
police claimed he was trying to escape, though rights groups have called
it a summary execution.
Police also claimed that Shekau was killed then, but he later emerged from unknown locations in video and audio recordings.
Boko Haram went underground after the 2009 assault, but returned more than a year later with a series of targeted killings.
It gradually expanded its targets with more sophisticated attacks, including suicide bombings.
2011 suicide attack on UN headquarters in the capital Abuja left 25
people dead, while coordinated bombings and shootings in Kano, the
largest city in northern Nigeria, killed at least 185 people in January
The insurgency has moved in phases, at times targeting churches, security forces and schools.
Christians have been specifically targeted, Muslims have often been its
victims as well, including in brutal attacks on a mosque and a village
in northeastern Nigeria that left 56 people dead this month.
Many analysts say poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria's north have helped feed the insurgency.
diplomats have urged the government to address such issues as part of
efforts to end the insurgency in Nigeria, long viewed as one of the
world's most graft-ridden nations.