A man purporting to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram denied in a video posted yesterday that 5,000 people held by the group had been freed by West African forces earlier in the week.
Abubakar Shekau also claimed responsibility for attacks earlier this week which included suicide bombings in the city of Maiduguri and a raid on the town of Magumeri, both of which are in the northeast Nigerian state of Borno.
Nigeria’s military has said on multiple occasions in the last few years that it has killed or wounded Shekau.
Such statements have often been followed by video denials by someone who says he is Shekau, but poor footage makes it difficult to confirm if the person is the same man as in previous footage.
Boko Haram has killed around 15,000 people and forced more than 2mn people to flee their homes since 2009 in an insurgency aimed at creating a state adhering to strict Islamic laws in the northeast of Africa’s most populous nation.
The militant group, whose attacks have increased since the end of the rainy season in late 2016, also carries out cross-border attacks in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Shekau spoke for nearly 20 minutes of a 27-minute video obtained by AFP, in a trademark pose in front of a sub-machine gun, flanked by two masked militant fighters.
Speaking in the local languages Hausa and Kanuri, as well as Arabic, Shekau said the recording was made on Thursday and that he was “in good health”, contrary to claims he may be injured.
But he appeared subdued compared with previous appearances.
Criticising regional leaders, he singled out Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, whose government on Wednesday said troops had killed 60 Boko Haram fighters and arrested 21 others in recent weeks.
Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary also said more than 5,000 civilian “hostages” had been freed in operations along the border with Nigeria from February 27 to March 7.
But Shekau said: “We fought along the Cameroonian border. You lied that you killed 60 of our fighters, that you arrested 20 of our men, that you freed 5,000 of your people.
“Paul Biya, is it that you can’t live off lies? Is it with this that you are going to convince the West, your leaders? It is unfortunate. Be careful, Paul Biya.”
Shekau was last seen on camera in a video message in December last year after Nigeria’s military claimed it had flushed out Boko Haram fighters from its Sambisa Forest stronghold.
Troops, with the help of regional forces from Cameroon, Chad and Niger, as well as Benin, have since early 2015 managed to claw back most of the territory lost to the radical Islamists in 2014.
But Shekau insisted “our caliphate is running smoothly”.
The militant leader declared an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria in August 2014.
Boko Haram released another video on Monday showing the execution of three men said to be government spies.
But that video did not feature Shekau.
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