A man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, appears in a new video threatening violence against the Nigerian government should they proceed with presidential elections, and warning that the terrorist group will “enslave” all those “supporters of Francois Hollande and Obama.”
The video, which was initially distributed on Twitter and since has been distributed through the SITE Intelligence group, depicts the man claiming to be Shekau before a camera, warning that the Nigerian presidential elections– already postponed due to Boko Haram suicide bombings– will never happen. The elections are scheduled to occur on March 28.
“This election will not hold even if we are dead. Even if we are not alive Allah will never allow you to do it,” Shekau argues. “You are saying authority is from people to people, which means people should rule each other [rather than Allah],” he continues, vowing revenge on “the disbelievers who believe in democracy” for Allah. Shekau claims that the video is “not a message of declaring a war, but a call for you to listen to and obey Allah.”
Opposition leaders are clamoring to reinstitute an early date for elections, and have pressured President Goodluck Jonathan with arguments that any further postponement is “unconstitutional” and could give the incumbent an unfair advantage.
In addition to his attacks on those who believe in democratic systems of government, Shekau says of “whomever supports Hollande and Obama, as they supported Bush and Clinton before, and supported the state of Jewish Israel”: “he is an enemy and a target to us and we will enslave him and sell him in the markets.”
The website Mashable correctly notes that the video differs from previous Boko Haram propaganda in its production values: the video begins with an Islamic song and contains both subtitles and a graphic of a waving Islamist flag most commonly associated with the Islamic State. Instead of distributing its videos through established news outlets, also, Boko Haram took a route popularized as well by ISIS: posting the video on Twitter.
While Boko Haram controls up to six times more land than the Islamic State, it is a significantly less wealthy outfit, due to not having resources like oil deposits and priceless ancient artifacts to its name. Boko Haram has made overtures to the Islamic State, praising their operation in Syria and Iraq, and American intelligence officials have confirmed that the two groups communicate, though there is little evidence as to exactly what type of cooperation is occurring between the two terrorist organizations. This video may be proof that the Islamic State is providing Boko Haram with production tips, at the very least.
Nigeria has established a western African coalition of nations to battle the terror threat that includes neighboring Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin. Reuters reports today that Nigeria’s military is claiming it has killed more than 300 Boko Haram terrorists since the week began. Major-General Chris Olukolade, a military spokesman, told the press that “weapons and equipment were also captured and some destroyed” and two soldiers were killed in operations so far.
Reuters notes that they could not independently verify the military’s claims, and many are hesitant to trust the statistics of the Nigerian army, as they have previously claimed major gains against Boko Haram, including the death of Abubakar Shekau on multiple occasions, and have been unable to provide full verification.
Boko Haram has, despite the reported loss of foot soldiers, expanded its operations into Niger and Cameroon. In Niger, thousands took to the streets this week to rally in support of President Mamahadou Issoufou’s efforts to aid Nigeria in eliminating the Boko Haram threat.