- DHQ: Boko Haram leader’s threat, mere rhetoric
By Senator Iroegbu with agency report
Boko Haram’s shadowy leader Abubakar Shekau has appeared in a new video vowing to fight on and shrugged off an apparent split within the hardline jihadist group blamed for thousands of deaths in north eastern Nigeria since 2009.
He also threatened fresh but more vicious attacks on Nigeria, even as he battles Abu Mussab al-barnawi the son of his erstwhile leader, Muhammed Yusuf, to retain the leadership and control of the outlawed group, reported online news medium Premium Times.
However, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in Abuja has dismissed the Boko Haram leader’s threat as mere “rhetoric” and questioned the authenticity of the video.
In the video released yesterday, Shekau, who paraded several of his men, was quiet while one of his masked lieutenants read out a statement that reiterated their unflagging loyalty to him while denouncing ISIS’ choice of al-barnawi as its West African ‘Wali’ (leader).
The 24-minute video, which was partly in Arabic and ended largely in Hausa, had the group issuing direct threats to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Butatai and the spokesman of the Nigeria Army, Colonel Sani Usman, whom they labeled as their avowed enemies and infidels.
The veiled speaker speaking on the front row of men who were all armed with lethal weapons, threatened that they would very soon attack the presidential palace and bring down the Nigerian flag.
Shekau said he has no intention of waging war against Muslims, but threatened to carry out the “mother of all attacks” on Abuja, capital of Nigeria.
The group expressed angst and displeasure with the al-Bagdadhi-led ISIS for recognising al-barnawi as the new leader of Boko Haram in West Africa. It however failed to withdraw its loyalty to al-Bagdadhi whom they repeatedly referred to as Khalifa (Supreme leader) – an indication that Boko Haram is still very much comfortable being under the stronger umbrella of ISIS.
“I… Abubakar Ash-Shakawy (Shekau), the leader of Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, made it a duty for myself (to fight) Nigeria and the whole world,” Shekau said in the video released on Sunday, using the group’s name since it declared allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.
“Let the government of Nigeria and West Africa not celebrate or gloat over the division between us and our brothers….We will shock them with attacks never seen before, in no-distant time.
“They (the Abu Mussab group) do nothing but to create division among our people without an iota of contribution to the jihad.
“This is time to fight; it is the time of jihad. We are not killing fellow Muslims. We are not calling Muslims non-believers. We fight and kill those who God has ordered to be fought, those we call non-believers are people so called by God,” he said.
Last week, Shekau said in an audio message that he was still the head of the group despite his purported replacement by al-Barnawi, a former Boko Haram spokesman.
“We have no desire to fight our Muslim brethren,” Shekau, who last appeared in March, said in the 24-minute video. Shekau ridiculed suggestions that he was dead, and looked more composed and energetic than in previous appearances.
“I’m alive by the permission of Allah,” he said in his speech in Arabic and Hausa, adding that he would only die when his time came.
In the video he is wearing camouflage gear and holding a machine gun, standing between two Islamist fighters in balaclavas armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
He taunted the Nigerian government and condemned Western countries including the United States, France, Germany and “the tyrants of the United Nonsense (UN)”.
In the concluding part of the video message that featured the group, the masked speaker threatened more vicious war against Nigeria and its West and Central African neighbours (Chad, Niger and Cameroun), which he said would commence “very soon.”
At the end of his speech — apparently filmed in Boko Haram’s stronghold in the Sambisa forest of north eastern Nigeria — he fired off rounds of ammunition into the air.
Shekau’s absence in recent months had sparked speculation about his fate and whether he had been deposed as Boko Haram’s chief.
Omar Mahmood, a security analyst with US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute who has spent the past five years researching Boko Haram was quoted by AFP as stating that Shekau was removed because of his high-handedness and ruthlessness.
“One thing that has remained constant, however, is the focus on attacks against regional security forces, with Muslim civilian deaths still ignored. This aspect seems to be a key concern for IS propagandists,” Mahmood said.
“By contrast, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the man announced as the new leader, clearly stated in his al-Naba interview that attacks against Muslim civilians, mosques and markets will not be a staple of his leadership.”
Sources close to Boko Haram said Barnawi, aged in his early twenties, is none other than Habib Yusuf, the eldest son of group founder Yusuf. They said he was put under Shekau’s care following the death of his father, but the pair fell out over ideological and operational differences.
Boko Haram has been blamed for some 20,000 deaths and displacing more than 2.6 million people since it launched a brutal insurgency in Nigeria in 2009.
Nigerian forces, with the support of regional troops, have recaptured swathes of territory lost to the jihadists since they launched a military campaign in February 2014.
In a swift reaction to the video, DHQ dismissed the latest threat by the Boko Haram leader.
DHQ spokesman, Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, in response to THISDAY’s enquiries yesterday, expressed doubt over the authenticity of the video, suggesting that it could have been made by anyone acting as Shekau.
“That’s rhetoric and that doesn’t bother us. Which Shekau resurfaced and where did you see him? Remember anybody can replicate him. We know they are dying elements and will fade out soon,” Abubakar said.
The defence spokesman noted that having been defeated in the battlefield, the Boko Haram terrorists were attempting to shift the battleground to the media space.
He said the military was not interested in engaging the terrorists in a media war and would rather complete the ongoing clearance operations and the destruction of the group.
“We are not ready for a media war, which they would like us to engage in. Since they have failed woefully in the combat arena, they now want us to go to the media space. We will remain focused and his threats are just a figment of his imagination,” he added.
He advised the public not to be deceived by the video, stating: “No one should be deceived by the non-existent person called Shekau.
“He is gone and we advice other remnants of his group to surrender now just like the wise men among them did to save their lives, otherwise they will regret their continued defiance which will not save them,” he warned.