The Nigerian military has dismissed a Boko Haram video threatening to abduct and behead President Muhammadu Buhari as a “photoshop” and “complete joke,” claiming that Boko Haram no longer has the capacity for large-scale attacks and is merely trying to intimidate villagers into a distorted perception of their strength.
Buhari claimed in December 2015 that “we have won the war” against the Islamic State affiliate, a claim widely dismissed as the terrorists have continued to attack mosques, crowded marketplaces, and remote villages throughout the year. As such, the Nigerian military has a vested interest in arguing that Boko Haram is no longer capable of large scale attacks.
“Issue of threat to PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) is a complete joke and the dream of the century, therefore the entire clip is a washout,” military spokesman Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar said of the video. “We reiterate our total commitment and resilience in stamping them out, people shouldn’t be deceived by their use of photoshop.”
The extended statement went on to accuse Boko Haram of using an old video clip from 2014 to fabricate the appearance of a large group of terrorists and supporters praying in observation of Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s most important holidays. “The video clip is a complete show of weakness and sign that the end is near for the insurgents, hence it does not in any way poses threat to us,” the statement concluded.
Nigerian military officials did not dismiss the possibility that some of the video may be new as the unnamed individual delivering the message in it dated the video in September 2016. The use of previously released clips of individuals praying nonetheless “cast aspersions to the credibility of the clip and therefore should be disregarded,” they claim.
In the video, published on YouTube earlier this week, an unnamed man prays for the head of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, and vows to abduct and behead the “infidel” Buhari, himself a Muslim from northern Nigeria.
“So this infidel by the name Buhari saying that he will finish us, he should know that by the grace of Allah, he cannot finish us,” the terrorist says. “Rather, he will die, he will die, he will die.”
The video is notable both for the threat to Buhari and the repeated assertions of allegiance to Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram since 2009 — when its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed. Shekau has not appeared in any Boko Haram propaganda in months, and Islamic State publications announced in August the appointment of another man, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, as the “governor” of the Islamic State West Africa Province, the official name of Boko Haram. Al-Barnawi has been referred to by some Nigeria news outlets as Yusuf’s son, though this is not yet a confirmed fact.
Reports from the northern Nigerian state of Borno suggest that the terror organization has now split its loyalties between Shekau and al-Barnawi, ever since the latter criticized Shekau’s indiscriminate targeting of mosques and urban centers for terror attacks. Al-Barnawi instead vowed to target every public center known to be frequented by Christians, rather than risk the shedding of Muslim blood.
Witnesses in Borno say entire villages have had to flee their homes as al-Barnawi’s people attack Shekau strongholds, burning down homes and taking food and other loot with them. Standard Boko Haram terrorism also continues, with a mass abduction most recently occurring in the village of Chibok, home to the hundreds of schoolgirls abducted in April 2014 and not yet found.
In addition to killing thousands of civilians and burning down homes, Boko Haram has prevented international aid from entering remote regions of northern Nigeria, allowing for the spread of previously subdued illnesses like polio.
According to a recent study published by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, Boko Haram killed over 5,000 people in 2015 and, when measured as an independent terror group rather than a wing of the Islamic State, remains the third deadliest terror group in the world, after the Taliban and the greater Islamic State.