A man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram Islamist sect, has claimed responsibility for attacks on military barracks executed 10 days ago in Maiduguri, north eastern Borno State.
In its latest video, the sect claimed to have masterminded the attacks, during which an unknown number of soldiers died. It also promised more killings.
Clad in white, flowing robe and characteristically brandishing a Kalashnikov, the man in the video looked markedly younger and slimmer than the one in previous videos; and this will likely stoke the debate on the whereabouts of the Abubakar Shekau the Nigerian Military claimed to have killed last year.
Spokesperson of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Restore Order, in Maiduguri, Borno State, Colonel Sagir Musa had said in August 2013 that Shekau “may have died” of gunshot wounds he sustained in a clash with JTF troops in the camp at Sambisa Forest on 30th June 2013.
“Shekau was mortally wounded in the encounter and was sneaked into Amitchide, a border community in Cameroun for treatment, which he never recovered from. It is greatly believed that Shekau might have died between 25th July 2013 and 3rd August 2013”, Musa had said.
But the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) subsequently disowned the claims, saying it did not authorise the release of “unconfirmed intelligence” hinting at Shekau’s death. Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Vice-Admiral Ola Ibrahim said the Army was still planning to dispatch troops to Amitchide, Cameroun to comb the area for fresh graves and also possibly run DNA tests to confirm the death.
Shekau was in June 2012 officially tagged a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States, under Executive Order 13224 — a move that had been in the cards since 26th August 2011 when Shekau’s Boko Haram bombed the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in Abuja. That same month, the United States Reward for Justice Programme placed a $7m bounty on his head.
The attack being claimed by the sect targeted the base of the Nigerian Army in Giwa Baracks, in an attempt to free the terrorist in detention at the barracks.
An undisclosed number of Boko Haram inmates were freed while soldiers also lost their lives, as explosions sporadically raged through the city. It also sparked commotion at the University of Maiduguri, as the terrorists launched assaults at the Army through the back of the institution.
The Nigerian Army refused to state the number of soldiers killed in the attacks, but it claimed that at least 207 suspected militants were murdered by the troops.