News / Africa

Boko Haram Leader Described as Ruthless, Radical

A grab made on July 13, 2013 from a video obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau, dressed in camouflage and holding an Kalashnikov AK-47.
A grab made on July 13, 2013 from a video obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau, dressed in camouflage and holding an Kalashnikov AK-47.
VOA News
The video is grainy. The man speaking is brash, almost laughing at points. But his message is chilling: “I abducted your girls. … By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.”

With that, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, finally confirmed this week that the militant Islamic group was responsible for kidnapping nearly 300 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria on April 14.

Little is known about Shekau.

He may be in his mid 30s or as old as his mid 40s. He rarely speaks directly to Boko Haram members, choosing to communicate with only a few select cell leaders in the group. He was thought to have been killed at least twice, only to reappear later, including in 2010 when he announced he was the new leader of Boko Haram. He hasn’t been seen in public since 2009 and makes most of his pronouncements through online videos.

But among the things most media reports agree on is that Shekau is ruthless and adheres to a radical ideology.

'I enjoy killing'

After a January 2012 attack by Boko Haram left more than 180 people dead in Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city, Shekau was quoted as saying, "I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill - the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.”

"He is the leader of the more militant wing of the group as testified by his aping of Osama bin Laden in his video appearances," said Abubakar Mu'azu, a faculty member in mass communication at the University of Maiduguri in a profile of Shekau from the BBC.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in northern Nigeria, is the headquarters for Boko Haram.

According to a CNN profile of Shekau, he uses Islam to recruit and radicalize his followers.

“The northeast, where Boko Haram has been most active, is economically depressed and among the least educated regions in Nigeria. Shekau has done a good job of convincing residents that the powers in Abuja are corrupt and a better system of government would be a strict enforcement of Islamic Sharia law across Nigeria. And his promise, coupled with a weapon and a license to plunder, has been enticing to hundreds of young men,” CNN reported.

Shekau is well-known to U.S. terrorism officials. In June 2013, the United States posted a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to his location.

He speaks several languages fluently, including Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri and Arabic.

The name of the group translates to “Western education is sinful.”

Human Rights Watch reported that Boko Haram, since its founding in 2002, has employed rape, murder, kidnapping, suicide bombings and more in its efforts to wipe out Western influence in Nigeria.

Violence has escalated

But an article on New York Magazine’s website said the worst of the violence has come since 2009, when Shekau became leader.

"Why is he so violent? I think because Shekau was almost killed," said Martin Ewi, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in the New York Magazine article. "Imagine coming back from the dead. He knows he doesn't have a second chance if he's caught by the security forces. He was in the mouth of the crocodile, now he's coming back to kill the crocodile."

Nigeria's mainstream Muslim clerics do not regard Shekau as a scholar and they question his understanding of Islam, the BBC reported, adding that they regularly condemn the bombings and drive-by shootings committed by his followers against anyone who disagrees with them.

A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Abubakar Shekau does not speak English. VOA regrets the error.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Albert Abiola from: lagos
May 16, 2014 5:45 PM
please always learn to verify your news properly before that you dont end up mixing your juicy story with untrue or iunimportant facts.i would be willing to act as correspondence to you organization if called upon at any given time.

by: wizen wolokoso from: kampala
May 14, 2014 7:39 PM
u may think ur invisible u idiot, u may fool us but u wont fool GOD!

by: edward.kas from: africa uganda
May 11, 2014 2:26 PM
shekaw is a mere spokesman of bokoharam.the real leaders now are coldblooded clericks dwelling in an urban enviroment.

by: Matt steffen from: Kansas City
May 09, 2014 11:57 AM
Kill them all, down to the literal last remaining individual. Do it in public, film it live, hang their bodies from rafters with signs on them that says" this is what happens when you kidnap our girls, and then let their bodies rot there. Then tell the rest of the world to shove it when they protest the methods.

by: Rahim oduah from: Rivers state nigeria
May 08, 2014 1:46 AM
Cut off there supply of foods and ammunitions, then you will see them dying?

by: Wilhelm from: Zambia
May 08, 2014 1:43 AM
The threat of Boka Haram has not been approached in the right manner by the Nigerian government. Without a united stance to neautralise Boko Haram from Nigeria's neighbours these attacks will continue. Cameroon, Niger, Chad must all sit down together with the Nigerian government and their military heads and must formulate a plan on flushing out Boko Haram. From media reports there are probably no more than 1000 active combatants in Boko Haram, that number should be easy to handle by a combined task force from the 4 countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad) the elusiveness of BH in crossing borders (and recruiting from neighbouring countries) whenever they are being pursued by the Nigerian military is the challenge and that's why a combined effort is the only answer.

by: osa otos from: afrika
May 07, 2014 3:48 PM
Some of this formar nigeria president and top lider rich politie political crimanals who have sheld lnnocent blood when in power. need to be eliminated from the contry befor the contry wil know peace most expecialy the norther liders .all this people are the spossoras of this maihem .if not wear on erth can a hugry jobles hoples oneducated fulish man get such amout of money to by amonition to carry out such bloodly opertion in broddaylihgt in bisy plaeces without being conbated if not then let the contry be separated and then the northaners can continiu to kill them self as da are in the confiused arab word full of confution and the southaners could enjoy there pease.

by: Ross Williams
May 07, 2014 2:35 PM
they call them self Islamist but seem not to understand dose it not say that the Almighty is merciful but show no mercy themselves they sat represent the almighty but do not show it .
In Response

by: Theo from: Kiev
May 07, 2014 2:48 PM
When Sub-Saharan people meet radical Islam,it never ends well...

May 07, 2014 2:30 PM
My brother in Islam Abobakar Shekau...In the name of Allah (swt) I implore you to release all the innocent young girls/ladies. In sparing their lives Allah (swt) will grant you happiness and fulfilment in many other things that you desire. The principles you stand by will not change or dented by taking the lives of the children who have caused you nor Boko Haram any harm. Your cause for justice in whatever stand you take must prevail only with the will of Almighty Allah's (swt) will.

I am appealing to you as an ordinary South African Muslim to release them and show the world that Islamic Justice remains firmly in Our Creator's hands who determines good guidance in all our actions and that whosoever tramples the cause of Islam will be accountable to Allah (swt). PLEASE RELEASE THESE INNOCENT AND HARMLESS KIDS TO THEIR LOVED ONES. SHUKRAN. Your brother in Islam....Goolam

by: Sir Loin Tips from: Common Sense, USA
May 07, 2014 2:29 PM
He's just following the Koran...." Slave—girls are sexual property for their male owners.

The Quran in Sura 4:24 says:

And forbidden to you are wedded wives of other people except those who have fallen in your hands [as prisoners of war] . . . (Maududi, vol. 1, p. 319).

Sayyid Maududi (d. 1979), a highly respected traditional commentator and scholar, says in his comment on the verse that is it lawful for Muslim holy warriors to marry women prisoners of war even when their husbands are still alive. But what happens if the husbands are captured with their wives? Maududi cites a school of law that says Muslims may not marry them, but two other schools say that the marriage between the captive husbands and wives is broken (note 44). But why would a debate over this cruelty emerge in the first place? No marriage should take place between prisoners of war and their captives, married or not. In fact, no sex should take place between women captives and their Muslim overlords.

Islam allows deep immorality with women who are in their most helpless condition. This crime is reprehensible, but Allah wills it nonetheless—the Quran says so. For more information on this Quran—inspired immorality, see this short article. See also Suras 4:3; 23:5—6; 33:50; 70:22—30, all of which permit male slave—owners to have sex with their slave—girls. Suras 23:5—6 and 70:22—230 allow men to have sex with them in the Meccan period, during times of peace before Muhammad initiated his skirmishes and wars in Medina.

The hadith demonstrate that Muslims jihadists actually have sex with the captured women, whether or not they are married. In the following hadith passage, Khumus is one—fifth of the spoils of war."
In Response

by: rabel from: nigeria
May 27, 2014 2:38 AM
Nice try, Mr Tips. How I wish you have also included the many verses in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments that endorse slavery and even the beating of a slave (Exodus 21:20-21) ?
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