AFRICANGLOBE – Nigerian security agencies are reviewing information that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram Islamist militant group, may have been killed in a battle with the military, a person familiar with the investigation was quoted as saying.
Shekau may have been killed in the fighting near Konduga in Borno State, according to a security official who asked not to be identified because an official statement had not been made by the government.
The Nigerian armed forces last week said in a Twitter posting that over 60 Boko Haram militants had been killed and a senior Boko Haram leader had been captured in the battle at Konduga, a strategic town 40 kilometres away from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The leader, who wasn’t identified by the armed forces, was being treated at a military hospital, the statement added.
The military last year said Shekau might have been killed in a June 30 battle. But he later appeared in a video sent to reporters as proof that he was still alive.
However, there appeared to be confusion among intelligence and military sources as to whether the person killed or captured in Konduga last week was Shekau or an imposter, as some sources were very emphatic that a body double, claiming to be the sect’s leader, had been appearing in Boko Haram propaganda videos for months.
When contacted on the issue, security sources confirmed that they were indeed trying to verify if Shekau or his impostor was either killed or captured in Konduga.
According to an intelligence source, Boko Haram commander, who was reported to have been captured during the Konduga battle last Wednesday is suspected to be the person impersonating or acting as a body double for the terrorist leader.
The findings further revealed that the military and other intelligence agencies were still reviewing the information but would not make any official statement until they were 100 per cent certain that the commander, who shares similar features with Shekau was actually the Boko Haram leader or his double.
“We believe it may be the man acting as Shekau but we are not emphatic yet. The armoured personnel carrier that was captured during the Konduga battle was simply too similar to the one he uses in his video propaganda and the features are strikingly similar as well.
“The intelligence agencies are still studying his pictures and recordings and we are not in a hurry to make this official until we are very certain,” the source said.
Another top military officer explained that the security and intelligence agencies were “being very cautious this time around because of the previous mistake”.
“You know the issue of whether Abubabakar Shekau is dead or alive is still very much contentious, even though we believe that he was killed last year and what you are seeing right now are various impostors acting in his name. There were similar cases during the Second World War when Adolf Hitler had many doubles. The same applied to Saddam Hussein of Iraq when he was alive,” the source explained.
Another source at Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said: “Still in the process of confirming that the person we have is the same as that character who has been posing as Shekau. He is definitely a very prominent terrorist commander. I don’t want to say anything official on this yet please.”
He however volunteered that the person who was captured last week held considerable sway in the sect’s foot soldiers, as many of them were forced to flee to safe havens across the border in Cameroun in recent days.
This was confirmed by another military source who revealed that there had been fierce fighting between Boko Haram terrorists and Camerounian forces over the control of the key boundary town of Kirawa.
According to the source, the terrorists who escaped from the Konduga onslaught were chased by the military across the Camerounian border only to encounter another battle in the Central African country.
The source explained that Kirawa is the border town that transverses Nigeria and Cameroun, and was the same town into which close to a battalion of Nigerian soldiers escaped to last month in what DHQ described as a “tactical manoeuvre”.
“Since Thursday night, there has been fierce fighting between Boko Haram and the Camerounian military in Kirawa,” he said.
Kirawa is considered unique because it is a border town that cuts across the two countries and has boundaries that are blurred, making it very easy for its inhabitants to cross from one country to the other unimpeded.
“This was what happened to our troops who in pursuit of the terrorists suddenly found themselves on the Camerounian side,” the source explained.
Meanwhile, we have learnt that the recent onslaught by the Nigerian Armed Forces is yielding results, as some members of Boko Haram were said to have surrendered and handed their weapons to the military following the defeat of the sect in Konduga and other parts of the North-east.
A statement on DHQ’s twitter handle attributed their surrender to the heavy defeat the terrorists suffered in the hands of the troops in recent times, especially in Konduga.
The statement claimed that members of the terror sect surrendered with their weapons voluntarily at the weekend to the leadership of the troops in Konduga.
The defence authorities also disclosed that some of the captured terrorists have been providing useful information on the subsequent plans of the group.
DHQ further revealed that more terrorists were killed while trying to recover the dead bodies of their prominent fighters who had died in previous encounters in the area.
According to DHQ, “As the heat on terrorists continues, five terrorists yesterday surrendered with all their weapons to troops @#Konduga pleading for mercy.
“Other captured terrorists have also been giving useful information on the subsequent plans of the group in an apparent offer to cooperate.”
In addition, DHQ said the troops had recovered more weapons during the mop up operations, while some of the sect’s vehicles had been destroyed.
A military source, who spoke on the issue, said the troops who are used to fighting conventional warfare have actually got the terrorists where they want them, adding that the desperate attempts by the terrorists to gain entry to Konduga and march on to Maiduguri had backfired.
“We are wearing them down and our promise is that they will not hold any territory. The fact is that the terrorists themselves know that but they are just trying to prove a point and right now the heat is on them.
“The whole place is too hot and they are on the run… They are in total disarray, some of their key commanders have either been killed or captured,” the source said.
By: Senator Iroegbu