Rumors are flying in Nigeria following the release of a video featuring alleged members of the Islamic State-affiliated terror group Boko Haram, in which jihadists claim the group is still active and dangerous. The head of a regional youth organization claims the men are actors, paid by con artists hoping to extort the Nigerian government.
A video surfaced on social media networks Friday featuring jihadists posing with AK-47s in front of their vehicles in what appeared to be northern Nigeria’s Sambisa forest, the last remaining stronghold of the terror group in the country. In the video, a masked man asserts that Boko Haram will not surrender and that the group is as dangerous as ever.
“You should know that there is no truce, there is no negotiations, there is no surrender. … This war between us will not stop,” the man says in the Nigerian Hausa language, translated by subtitles into Arabic. The video clearly features the Islamic State flag and refers to Boko Haram as the ISIS “West Africa Province,” the name the group acquired after pledging allegiance to ISIS “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a year ago.
The head of the Arewa Youth Integrity Forum, a political group active in the nation’s north, has issued a statement warning the Nigerian government not to negotiate with those in the video, as they are potentially “paid actors” working for extortionists looking to demand money from the government in Abuja. Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar said in a statement carried by numerous major Nigerian outlets that “war entrepreneurs” that had used the Boko Haram crisis to extort the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan were hoping to do the same to incumbent Muhammadu Buhari. “They will use the two videos as compelling argument to draw the federal government into engaging them as brokers and will thus pocket the proceeds of the media they had carefully set up,” Abubakar alleged, adding that he believes “Boko Haram sponsors, patrons and benefactors who want to rubbish the Army and the federal government used paid actors for either of the videos or for both.”
The Arewa Youth Integrity Forum is a political mobilization group once tied to President Jonathan, having endorsed him and organized youth engagement events to get out the vote. The group has since worked to help Buhari since his victory a year ago, organizing rallies in support of Buhari’s economic policies.
While the group did not provide concrete evidence, the statement has been carried by media outlets taught to be suspect of any Boko Haram developments as the Nigerian government struggles to convince the world the terror organization has been defeated. Buhari announced in December that Nigeria had “won the war” against Boko Haram, though the group has continued to stage suicide bombings using young girls and women, and hundreds of civilians abducted by the group remain captive. The claim that the latest Boko Haram video was paid for and orchestrated by professionals would also explain the contrast between this latest clip and a video surfacing last week featuring someone identifying himself as Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, claiming he will soon leave the life of jihad.
The Shekau video featured significantly lower quality production, and the man in the video appeared gaunt and possibly sick. “For me, the end has come,” he says, adding that “this is a message of greeting and joy for you to see my face.” He also states that the video would likely be his last. Shekau does not mention the Islamic State and refers to Boko Haram by an older Hausa name, leading many to believe the video was made long before it was released. The Nigerian military urged civilians living in areas under Boko Haram threat to disregard the video and remain on alert for any terrorist activity.
The Nigerian military has claimed on multiple occasions to have killed Abubakar Shekau, with video surfacing each time of someone identifying himself as Shekau claiming an imposter was killed in his stead. The military has issued statements suggesting multiple men have claimed the name Shekau throughout the history of Boko Haram.