Nigerian Terrorist Leader ‘Dies’ Once more. Was This the End of His 9th Life?
When experiences started to emerge on Wednesday evening that the murderous chief of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram was lifeless, many Nigerians dismissed them instantly.
Over the years, the Nigerian navy had introduced the killing of that chief, Abubakar Shekau, a number of occasions earlier than. After which he would present up on-line weeks later, taunting his supposed killers in video diatribes.
“In case you have killed us, why are we nonetheless alive?” he requested in 2018, after the Nigerian navy claimed to have “damaged the coronary heart and the soul” of Boko Haram, a bunch that has killed tens of 1000’s of folks and displaced hundreds of thousands.
However this time feels totally different. It wasn’t the navy saying they’d killed him. In truth, for hours on Wednesday evening and on Thursday, the navy was silent.
Nor was his killing claimed in some slick video produced by Islamic State West Africa Province, the rival extremist group typically generally known as ISWAP that splintered off from his command 5 years in the past.
As a substitute, experiences step by step made their technique to after which round Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno State, by phrase of mouth. Then they trickled out to the world. The person who held the area in his violent grip for near a decade was perhaps gone for actual this time.
Mr. Shekau was greatest identified for the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok Ladies, 276 schoolgirls who have been kidnapped from their dormitories at evening and who Mr. Shekau later vowed he would “promote in the market.”
Most of the Chibok Ladies have been launched, however over 100 are lacking or stay in captivity, together with many different much less well-known, however usually even youthful victims.
Mr. Shekau’s brutality prolonged a lot additional, nevertheless. He favored suicide bombings, and sometimes despatched girls or younger women strapped with explosives to be human bombs, in opposition to their will or tricked into doing it.
He focused civilians, together with fellow Muslims, as he thought of anybody not loyal to Boko Haram to be a reliable goal. These ways have been thought of too excessive even by ISIS central, to whom Mr. Shekau initially pledged allegiance, however who then supported his rivals in ISWAP.
The experiences that trickled out on Thursday held that Mr. Shekau, besieged by ISWAP fighters in his forest stronghold and realizing that they wished to take him alive, detonated a suicide vest, blowing himself up.
This was the model heard by Bunu Bukar, secretary of the Hunters’ Affiliation in Borno State, who has performed a key position in demobilizing Boko Haram fighters and is in touch with previous and current members of the group. He mentioned that 200 closely armed ISWAP members descended on Mr. Shekau’s hide-out in Sambisa forest.
“When Shekau found that these persons are very highly effective and he additionally realized that it’s not Nigerian military, it’s ISWAP — he simply deliberate to make use of explosive units,” Mr. Bukar mentioned. “He wore all of them and confronted them straight. When the explosion got here, Shekau was in items. They usually additionally misplaced no less than 40 fighters — ISWAP fighters.”
One of the folks Mr. Bukar heard it from was Ibrahim Mustafa, who fought alongside Mr. Shekau for seven years.
And in flip Mr. Mustafa heard it from fellow ex-fighters, who heard it from their former colleagues who have been nonetheless in Sambisa, nonetheless members of Boko Haram. However there’s little cellphone reception available in Sambisa, so to present their associates in the metropolis information, fighters on the floor needed to go to a specific spot. And so the updates have been halting.
For a while, ISWAP fighters have been on a mission to take Mr. Shekau’s stronghold, based on Mr. Mustafa.
“They fought and conquered all the villages as much as Sambisa,” he mentioned.
The same model was contained in a message circulated amongst members of the Nigerian navy on Thursday, and seen by The New York Occasions.
And but many remained skeptical. The customarily well-informed posted cryptic statements on Twitter, not naming names.
“An age of brutality by one individual possible ended,” wrote Ahmad Salkida, the Nigerian journalist usually credited with — and typically criticized for — having stellar sources inside Boko Haram.
In Maiduguri, folks gathered in small teams to speak about the information, however most assigned it no larger standing than one other rumor. Probably a false alarm.
At a fuel station on Thursday morning, one lady cautiously rejoiced as she heard the information. If it was true, she would give alms to the poor, she mentioned.
However there have been no massive celebrations, but.
Ibrahim Hamza nonetheless vividly remembers encountering Mr. Shekau at a busy sq. in Maiduguri in 2000. Mr. Hamza had come to play soccer; Mr. Shekau for tilawa, or memorization of the Quran. They didn’t know one another then, however Mr. Shekau gave Mr. Hamza a tough shove for no obvious cause, and advised him he would train him a lesson.
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However Mr. Shekau and his group would have an indelible impact on Mr. Hamza, who needed to flee Maiduguri for 2 years, and his household.
“I misplaced a brother, a cousin and an uncle killed by Boko Haram,” he mentioned. “Hundreds of harmless folks killed or displaced, particularly girls and kids. How can God forgive such a heartless individual?”
For a lot of, significantly these related with the nation’s armed forces, if Mr. Shekau was lifeless, it was not essentially a optimistic growth general. It may imply that ISWAP, already highly effective, posed far more of a menace to Maiduguri and different garrison cities, some mentioned.
If it actually occurred, “Shekau’s demise is just not an finish to Boko Haram. It is just the starting of one other chapter in the group,” mentioned Audu Bulama Bukarti, an skilled on extremist teams in Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for World Change.
Warfare between the factions has killed a whole lot of their members beforehand, he mentioned, and if that continued, they’d be weakened.
“Will probably be two violent teams consuming up themselves and that shall be optimistic information for Nigeria,” he mentioned. On the different hand, if the two factions teamed up, he mentioned: “It’ll open a good deadlier chapter for safety forces.”
It might additionally make it tougher to win the battle of concepts, he mentioned, as ISWAP tends to be extra benign to civilians.
“The place Shekau alienated civilians together with his capricious and sometimes large and violent seizures of cattle and grain, ISWAP has substituted a fairer, cash-based taxation of commerce and agricultural manufacturing,” wrote the analyst Vincent Foucher in a current report for the Worldwide Disaster Group.
Those that have suffered at Mr. Shekau’s arms virtually hoped he had not been killed in the method it was reported on Thursday, feeling it was too simple a method out for him.
“I’d have wished that he was caught alive, launched to the navy authorities and brought spherical the metropolis of Maiduguri,” Mr. Hamza mentioned. “We’d certainly have skinned him alive.”
Usman Alkali contributed reporting.
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