A man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian jihadist terror group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has appeared in a new video this week praising the organizers of the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, condemning the Western nation’s “religion of democracy” and proclaiming that his terrorist group is “very happy” with the attack.
The video, Bloomberg Businessweek reports, appeared on YouTube on Wednesday in its full-length form, an eight-minute monologue in which the man claiming to be Shekau repeatedly states that Boko Haram is “very happy” with the deaths of a number of the editors of Charlie Hebdo. “Oh you French people, oh you who follow the religion of democracy, between you and us is enmity to eternity,” Shekau proclaims in the video.
The Charlie Hebdo attack, orchestrated by brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, resulted in the deaths of twelve individuals, most were senior editors of Charlie Hebdo. Four more individuals died in a related attack on a Kosher deli last Friday by Amedy Coulibaly, another proclaimed jihadi, in an attempt to help the Kouachi brothers escape. The three jihadis were eliminated by French law enforcement.
While the full video has been taken down by YouTube, pieces of it remain, in which the man can be seen holding an AK-47 and sitting before what appears to be an Islamic State flag.
NBC News notes that Flashpoint Intelligence, a jihadi watchdog group, has confirmed that the video is an official production of Boko Haram. They note that the video is an indication that Boko Haram seek to be more influential in the international jihadist scene, as commenting on international affairs that did not concern any of their members— as opposed to posting videos in which Shekau threatens to kidnap more Nigerian girls or kill more Cameroonian soldiers—is uncommon for the group in the past. A week before the release of this video, Shekau appeared in another video doing just that: threatening Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, with further terrorist violence.
Boko Haram rose to international prominence in April 2014 with the kidnapping of more than 200 girls, both Muslim and Christian, from the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. After months of searching and a hashtag campaign titled #BringBackOurGirls from the White House, the girls remain missing, and Boko Haram made its largest headline since then at the beginning of this year, slaughtering the town of Baga.
Experts, citing witnesses, estimate that Boko Haram killed 2,000 people in their takeover of Baga. Reports in Nigerian media cite individuals who traveled to Baga in the aftermath of the attack as seeing the town laden in rotting corpses, with Boko Haram members not cleaning up the dead and no one else in the town remaining to give the terrorist group’s victims a proper burial. “It is corpses everywhere. The whole town smells of decomposing bodies,” said one witness who wished to remain anonymous, speaking to Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper.
The Nigerian military has, on multiple occasions, announced that they have killed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. The military announced the death of Shekau most recently in September, posting gruesome photos of a dead man online they claimed to be the Boko Haram boss. Evidence was inconclusive, however, with some arguing that the man killed was an impersonator. Other terrorism experts suggest that “Abubakar Shekau” is a stage name taken by the man who leads Boko Haram during his tenure, possibly taken on from an original “Abubakar Shekau” who was previously killed. The man in the video released on January 14 does resemble physically the images known to be of the Boko Haram leader.