Ahmed Salkida, a Dubai-based Nigerian journalist who reportedly maintains communication with some leaders of the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram, claimed today that the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, is alive and well. Mr. Salkida denied reports asserting that Nigerian troops had killed the mercurial and fiendish Shekau, the speaker and voice in numerous videos released by Boko Haram.
In a tweet earlier today, Mr. Salkida also dismissed media reports that the Nigerian government was negotiating with Boko Haram for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in mid-April by Boko Haram militants in Chibok, Borno State. The reporter’s tweet also described as untrue reports that the International Red Cross (IRC) was working on a deal that would persuade Boko Haram to free the abducted Chibok schoolgirls in exchange for the release of detained Islamist insurgents in the custody of Nigerian security agencies.
Earlier today, SaharaReporters had published a report to the effect that a Nigerian intelligence source revealed that the person whose dead body is seen in photos circulating in news reports was not Shekau but one “Mohammed Bashir”.
Our intelligence source stated that the dead Islamist figure, who bore a striking semblance to Mr. Shekau, was indeed a look-alike who appeared in videos released by the Islamist sect.
Mr. Salkida’s tweet appeared to confirm that the Boko Haram “officer” killed by Nigerian soldiers in Konduga was a different person from Mr. Shekau. In fact, Nigerian security officials have maintained for months that Mr. Shekau was dead, apparently killed by his own disaffected lieutenants in an internal rivalry for control of the terrorist organization.
Mark my words: I have it on authority that Shekau is well & alive, the picture going round is NOT the person who torments us with his group— Ahmad Salkida (@A_Salkida) September 22, 2014
However, Salkida sent out another tweet today which appeared to cast doubt on the fact that Shekau indeed had a double.
A confidential debriefing document by the Nigerian army obtained last week by SaharaReporters also acknowledged that Mr. Shekau stayed permanently in his holdout in Sambisa Forest and was not in the habit of venturing out to battles. Item “R” of the document stated, ”Shekau has his wife and 2 children in Sambisa Forest. He is Kanuri, he speaks Hausa and he does not travel.”
Meanwhile, a Nigerian security source told SaharaReporters that there was evidence of a growing frustration among insurgent fighters and a simmering power struggle between some of the sect’s top figures. He disclosed that some of the insurgents who surrendered to Nigerian troops last week in Konduga have told army interrogators that they decided to give up after their commander executed two of their leaders who led the failed attack on Konduga. The source told SaharaReporters that the insurgents, who are being kept in one of the barracks in Maiduguri, told interrogators that they fled from a camp near Bama after their commander shot dead two insurgent field officers “for losing valuable weapons to infidels.” He added that the surrendering militants claimed they were reluctant and small-time fighters who were recently recruited from towns and villagers taken by Boko Haram.
The insurgents’ foiled attempt to seize Konduga, which was a first step in their plan to attack the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, is being seen as a possible turning point in the war between the insurgents and increasingly confident Nigerian soldiers. Nigerian troops killed hundreds of insurgents in the battle for Konduga and also seized an armored tank and several vehicles from the Boko Haram fighters. Incidentally, Boko Haram insurgents had originally captured thetank and vehicles from the Nigerian army in previous battles.
For close to two weeks, the insurgents have not been able to reproduce their earlier streak of victories over Nigerian troops. Instead, they have been routed in Konduga and driven out of Baza in Adamawa State.