News / Africa

    Nigeria Denies Boko Haram 'Caliphate' Claim

    Video screen shot of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram leader and obtained by AFP shows Abubakar Shekau, delivering a speech at an undisclosed location, Aug. 24, 2014.
    Video screen shot of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram leader and obtained by AFP shows Abubakar Shekau, delivering a speech at an undisclosed location, Aug. 24, 2014.
    Heather Murdock

    Nigerian militants have released a new video stating they have annexed a town and the surrounding countryside into what they call their "Islamic Caliphate."  Officials deny the claim and the video's credibility.  But some religious leaders say as Boko Haram grows stronger, the government should re-consider abandoned peace talks.
     
    The video released Sunday, distributed in its usual shadowy way, shows the man who claims to be the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, flanked by two masked men with guns in front of large SUVs.
     

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    He says Boko Haram has taken over Gwoza, an area that has been the site of many militant attacks in recent months, including the murder of the local emir in late May.

    Next, a sequence appears to show the taking of a town or a military base.  Fighters shoot their way through a rural area with buildings, in the hills among the rocks and finally rolling into town on military trucks, triumphant and still shooting, as music plays in the video.

    Boko Haram
     

    • Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri
    • Self-proclaimed leader is Abubakar Shekau
    • Began in 2002 as a nonviolent Islamist splinter group
    • Launched uprising in 2009
    • Has killed tens of thousands since 2010
    • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"
    • Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law

    The people in the video all appear to be Boko Haram fighters but it is not clear who or what they are shooting at.  Some analysts say the video is part of an emerging pattern of Boko Haram entering towns and forcing anyone they can to fight. 

    “Now it’s really the more they expand, they go into territories, to use the words properly, they conquer new territories and they take the boys that are there and they need more and more personnel," said Yan St. Pierre, CEO of MOSECON, a Berlin-based security firm.

    The United Nations says 650,000 people have fled their homes because of Boko Haram fighting and the group has killed thousands of people this year alone with the stated goal of enforcing a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
     
    Some religious leaders say that in many parts of northern Nigeria, there’s nothing people can do but run. 

    “The federal government cannot provide the security for you.  You have to provide the security for yourself and your family," explained Mallam Abdullahi Bayero, the spokesman for the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria.

    Nigerian officials skeptical

    But Nigerian officials say the new video lacks credibility altogether, calling Shekau’s claim to have established some sort of rule, “empty.”  

    At the same time, Defense spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade says “appropriate military operations to secure that area from the activities of the bandits is still ongoing.”
     
    While the military continues to fight, some leaders say a recent surge in kidnapping is, among other things, a reason for the government to reconsider peace talks, a strategy that has been on and off the table for years.
     

    In this Monday, May 19, 2014 file photo, Martha Mark, the mother of kidnapped school girl Monica Mark cries as she displays her photo, in the family house, in Chibok, Nigeria.In this Monday, May 19, 2014 file photo, Martha Mark, the mother of kidnapped school girl Monica Mark cries as she displays her photo, in the family house, in Chibok, Nigeria.
    x
    In this Monday, May 19, 2014 file photo, Martha Mark, the mother of kidnapped school girl Monica Mark cries as she displays her photo, in the family house, in Chibok, Nigeria.
    In this Monday, May 19, 2014 file photo, Martha Mark, the mother of kidnapped school girl Monica Mark cries as she displays her photo, in the family house, in Chibok, Nigeria.

    Among the hundreds of men, women and children kidnapped this year are more than 200 schoolgirls taken from the town of Chibok in April.  The abduction drew international attention, but the girls remain missing.
     
    Pastor Yohanna Buru of the Peace Revival and Reconciliation Foundation of Nigeria says the government should send leaders the militants can relate to, like imams or traditional rulers, to try again to negotiate.

    “Boko Haram, they always approve traditional rulers or religious leaders to go and dialogue." Buru said. "Why is the federal government not playing their role right?”

    In the video, Shekau directed his most venomous words against civilian vigilante groups, essentially saying those who defend their homes, will, if Boko Haram gets its way, be murdered in the name of God.

    Abdulkareen Haruna contributed to this report from Bauchi, Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna.

     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mukhtar from: Bauchi
    August 25, 2014 10:50 AM
    These are people who make Islam to be what they want for their econopolitical reason and not Muslims. Muslims of the religion of Allah fight a greater jihad with their minds to be the best inhabitants on earth loving and loved by everyone and not killing in clearly a spiteful manner. There is no teaching like this in Islam therefore they are not "Islamist" but "organist" extrimist. Please let's all avoid use of the term Islam against their name to discourage them unless you are with them.
    In Response

    by: gazawa from: NGUETCHEWE, Cameroon
    August 25, 2014 5:54 PM
    we are very sorry to see our brothers bokoharamists claiming themselves as believers. Where are muslim leaders to condemn it? It is unbelievable to be quite while our brothers are killing the human beings. This gives us opportunity to say that the islamic religion has a fondamental problem. The notion of God is not understood. It is then urgently for muslims to restudy it and educate youths in this logic. Let's keep praying for those who are ignorant in order the almighty God forgive them.
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 25, 2014 12:37 PM
    It's a shame, but I think your money goes to their campaign also, because all muslims contribute in one way or another to jihad. The radicalization is done directly in mosques, so what's the denial about?

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