Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has released an audio message in which he confirms he is still alive and calls himself the “governor” of the Islamic State West Africa Province, the new name for Boko Haram under ISIS.
The eight-minute audio clip, distributed on social media and verified by the SITE Intelligence Group, addresses a number of recent developments in the fight against the Nigerian jihadist terror group. The first is the rumor, propagated most visibly by Chadian President Idriss Deby, that Shekau had been replaced by another leader. In a speech this month, Deby identified “someone apparently called Mahamat Daoud” as the new leader of Boko Haram, claiming Daoud had come forward to the Nigerian government requesting the establishment of peace talks. Deby advised against them.
Shekau calls Deby a “hypocrite” and “tyrant” in the audio clip, calling it a “blatant lie that I have been replaced.” “I am alive and in charge, I will only die at the time Allah has assigned for me,” he added. He also condemned the “global media of infidels” for reporting Deby’s comments.
Shekau then turns to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s remarks that the newly-minted Nigerian military leadership will have a three-month ultimatum to destroy the Boko Haram organization. “This ostentatious person, a liar — I mean Buhari, who raised arms to crush us in three months,” Shekau says, “You Buhari, why didn’t you say in three years?”
The clip– which YouTube has taken down multiple copies of due to its promotion of terrorist activity– has raised questions regarding claims by the Nigerian government that a wing of Boko Haram is looking to lay down its arms. Buhari advisor Femi Adesina told the BBC in July that his government “can’t rule out” talks with the ISIS-affiliated terror group, though he added that such talks under President Goodluck Jonathan had failed entirely. It was mere weeks later that the Nigerian government claimed they had received a communication calling for peace talks, which they would explore as an option but could not confirm as a viable option at the time. In August, Deby exacerbated the spread of rumors regarding the possibility of talks by putting a name to the rumors: Mahamat Daoud.
“I have not heard of any individual called Mahamat Daoud,” Dr. Jonathan Hill, a Reader in the Defence Studies Department at London’s King’s College, told The Telegraph at the time. He added that “here are a number of characters claiming to represent different factions within Boko Haram, and their bona fides are often hard to verify.”