Boko Haram’s Shekau Resurfaces in New Video, Says “I am in Good Health”

KANO, NIGERIA // The embattled leader of fundamentalist group Boko Haram resurfaced on Sunday in a video posted online, rejecting assertions by the Nigerian army that he had been seriously wounded.

“You have been spreading in the social media that you injured or killed me,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 40-minute video released on YouTube and dated September 25.

“Oh tyrants, I’m in a happy state, in good health and in safety.”

The Nigerian army said on August 23 that the longtime militant chief had been seriously wounded in the shoulder in an air raid in which several commanders were killed.

Nigerian authorities have reported him dead several times before, but the army’s latest claim was bolstered when Boko Haram – which pledged allegiance to the ISIL extremist group last year – released a video on September 13 without Shekau in it.

However, in the video released on Sunday, Shekau points to a date on an Islamic calendar corresponding to September 25, 2016.

Speaking in Hausa, Arabic and English and in dialects spoken in north-east Nigeria, he appears to be in good health.

He used the video to issue threats against president Muhammadu Buhari, who appealed to the United Nations this week for help in negotiating the release of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the militants more than two years ago.

“If you want your girls, bring back our brethren,” Shekau said in the video.

Boko Haram, which has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009 in its quest for a hardline Islamist state in north-east Nigeria, has been in the grip of a power struggle since late last year.

Last month, ISIL high command said Shekau had been replaced as leader by Abu Musab Al Barnawi, the 22-year-old son of Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf.

But the shadowy Shekau has maintained he is still in charge.

Along with the tens of thousands killed, Boko Haram has also made more than 2.8 million people homeless, fleeing attacks on villages by ransacking militants in a conflict that has spilled over Nigeria’s borders into Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

But it was the mass kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok in July 2015 that brought unprecedented attention to Boko Haram, sparking a global campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls”.

* Agence France-Presse


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