News / Africa

Nigeria Violence Continues Despite Claimed Killing of Boko Haram Leader

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.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.
x
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.
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.
Anne Look
It has been two weeks since the Nigerian military announced that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau died in Cameroon in early August following injuries sustained in battle. However, there is still no confirmation or proof of his death. Nigerians remain skeptical of the military's claim, and analysts say killing off Boko Haram commanders won't stop the violence in northern Nigeria.

It's been three and a half months since the military launched a large-scale offensive against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria.

The military says it's got Boko Haram on the run. That would hardly be surprising as insurgents, by definition, tend to avoid direct battlefield confrontation. But the military's claim is nearly impossible to confirm. Security forces have restricted access to the frontline and cell phone communications have been cut in much of the northeast.

In August, the military Joint Task Force in Borno State announced that Boko Haram's leader and public face, Abubakar Shekau, and his deputy had been killed.  It appears that other top members may also have been eliminated.

So, what happens now?

It would seem that the conglomeration of radical militant factions in northern Nigeria, for which Boko Haram has become a kind of umbrella term, is in a bit of a leadership crisis, or at least in need of some major regrouping.

Many in northern Nigeria say they won't believe Shekau is dead until they see his body. He previously had been declared dead at least twice in the past four years.  
It was Shekau who resurrected Boko Haram in 2010 after a heavy-handed military crackdown the previous year that led to the detention and murder of sect founder, Mohammed Yusuf, by police.

Yusuf was a charismatic imam and preacher who founded the group in 2002.  The sect was later nicknamed Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language.

Shekau was Yusuf's deputy. While Yusuf was very much a public figure, analysts say Shekau took the group into the shadows and made it more violent.

Nigeria analyst for the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, Jacob Zenn, has studied Shekau.

"He really transformed an organization that was sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaida to an organization that operated like the Taliban and al-Qaida. Whereas for Yusuf, it was mostly just preaching and preparing for jihad, but he [Shekau] transformed it from a preaching group about jihad to an actual jihadist group," said Zenn.

Since 2010, Boko Haram's suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks in northern Nigeria have killed thousands of people.

Shekau has been in hiding for most of that time, presumably running the group through contact with select commanders.  He would re-emerge in the group's videos.
He is known for his hardline, impassioned discourse. He rattles off demands that include turning northern Nigeria into an Islamic state. He threatens enemies that have ranged from Christians to Nigerian security forces to the United States. He expresses solidarity with jihadists around the world.

Operationally, he has kept Boko Haram focused on Nigeria. That is one thing that could change if he is dead.

Experts say Shekau's faction is but one of as many as five factions that make up what is commonly referred to as Boko Haram.

The past three years have been wracked by rivalries and internal divisions. Moderates have split off, some claiming to now speak on behalf of the group and others forming new groups.

Analysts, like Zenn, say losing Shekau would not be "game-over" for the militants, who he says likely have enough members and operational experience to continue.

"It might just become more localized, like we might just have more disparate cells and less centrality. But I do think from a propaganda and ideological standpoint, it would be more significant because Shekau is the only leader that was really close to [Mohammed Yusuf], he was the deputy of Mohammed Yusuf who was the founder of Boko Haram and no one else would have that type of ideological legitimacy and the ability to keep the organization as a cohesive unit ideologically," he said.

So, the videos may stop, but analysts say the violence likely won't. The Joint Task Force says Shekau was injured in a gun battle June 30 and died about a month later.  Since then, at least 100 people have been killed by suspected militants.

Michael Olufemi Sodipo is the founder and coordinator of the Peace Initiative Network in Kano.

"What will matter is tackling the drivers of radicalization, not killing members, killing their leaders. It will just allow others assume office as a new leadership.  If you look at what's on the ground, what's in the communities, if the root causes of the issue is not tackled, you will have other members who will come and say, hey, I want to join the group. So, it's not only in killing, killing, killing, killing. It's in tackling issues," said Sodipo.

Sodipo says those drivers include a sense of economic injustice fueled by widespread poverty, corruption and unemployment, what he called "young ones with no skills and no hope."

He and others continue to push for dialogue.

Some are worried that Nigeria's ongoing military offensive has made it more difficult for moderates to come out and talk.

There have also been reports of abuses by security forces including disappearances, arbitrary illegal detentions and destruction of property of people presumed to be militants or Boko Haram sympathizers.

Human rights activists worry that history may, in fact, repeat itself and that a heavy-handed approach could galvanize the insurgents of tomorrow.

Abdulkareem Haruna contributed reporting from Maiduguri, Nigeria. Ardo Hazzad contributed reporting from Bauchi, Nigeria.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid