Abubakar Shekau, the mercurial leader of Nigeria’s Islamist group, Boko Haram, today released a video in which he declares the areas under his sect’s control a Caliphate and shows scenes of carnage carried out by his fighters against unarmed civilians. The video, which is the most gruesome since Boko Haram started the tradition of periodic releases of videotaped messages, also shows Nigerian soldiers fleeing from approaching insurgents.
Mr. Shekau, who has used such images to cultivate the image of a fierce, reckless and merciless threat, appears to have tailored the current video to draw maximum global attention to his group. His declaration of a Caliphate is reminiscent of the style of the Sunni Islamic group, ISIS that has shot to the frontline of sectarian terrorist groups after declaring its ambition to build an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In his just released video, Mr. Shekau said Boko Haram insurgents were grateful to “Allah who gave us victory to attack Abuja and also the Yobe [State] town called Damaturu.” In his characteristic rambling manner, Mr. Shekau added, “We still thank God for the successful bombing of Damboa and other parts of Nigeria. We are grateful to Allah for the big victory he granted our members in Gwoza and made the town part of our Islamic Caliphate.”
Even though Boko Haram has always stated its rejection of Western education and values in Nigeria, the current video is the first time the group’s leader has explicitly declared a Caliphate, a term implying that the areas under Boko Haram’s control would be governed according to strict Islamic codes.
Mr. Shekau lashed out at Western nations for supporting Nigeria to fight his insurgent fighters.
“We are in an Islamic Caliphate. We have nothing to do with Nigeria. We don't believe in this name," he said, vowing that his group would continue attacks to achieve greater territorial control.
Mr. Shekau stated that Boko Haram released the video in order to explain its recent attacks, officially acknowledging that the Islamist insurgents carried out recent attacks in Damboa, Gwoza and other communities in Borno and Yobe States. In the video, he revealed that Boko Haram also executed some of its members whom he described as infidels.
“Oh people, I'm making this speech because of the lies being spread always by the government,” he stated. Mr. Shekau expressed his rage at youth volunteers (popularly called civilian Joint Task Force) who repelled attacks by Boko Haram and killed some insurgents. “Have you forgotten what you did to our brethren? You were even asking 'are you Boko Haram, have you ever carried a gun? This was how you killed our members,” said Mr. Shekau, threatening to avenge the killings of his fighters.
Excerpts of the transcribed speech by Mr. Shekau are provided below:
"I chose to deliver this message in order to refute the lies being spread by the government, about the operations we had in recent times.
"We warn the vigilantes called civilian JTF to back off; if not, there will be no place for them to hide. We have evidence of how you killed some of our brethren whom you would ask if they were Boko Haram members before you killed them. We know how you humiliated them by asking them if they had ever carried guns or killed someone…We know everything about the evil you committed against our brethren.
"We still have the magnanimity of asking you to repent because you will never succeed in this way by the grace of Allah. And I swear by Allah that we will never stop killing you, because Allah commanded us to kill people like you. If we pity you and spare you, one day you will become infidels. So, to us, having pity on you is an act of disbelief. You can continue to run or hide your identities in women’s attire, but we will get to you and remove the women’s clothing off of you. Then, while you are shouting for mercy, we will strike, smash your heads and kill you all. Even if you don't do anything to us we will kill you...We would do it even to avenge our brethren. You killed our brethren in large numbers.
"We don't joke with religion (quoting from the Koran). There is no hypocrisy in this religion. It is only the truth.
"We are not proud of our strength, nor with our weapons nor with anything we have but we are only proud of victory from Allah the exalted. Victory is only from God. Who is America in the sight of Allah? Who is America in the sight of Allah? Who is Israel in the sight of Allah? Who is France in the sight of Allah?”