The Boko Haram faction loyal to leader Abubakar Shekau has released a video warning “infidel” Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari that the Islamic State affiliate is seeking to abduct and behead him.
The video, a holiday message for Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha, features an unnamed man referred to as an assistant of Shekau’s, with the leader nowhere to be seen, surrounded by individuals shown as supporters of Boko Haram gathered to pray. “Brothers, this is our Eid for the year 1437 AH (2016) under the leadership of our leader, Abu Muhammad Abubakar Ibn Mohammad Ashakawi (Shekau),” the man says in his native Hausa, according to a translation by Nigeria’s Premium Times.
“Our message to the infidels who are fighting us; especially their leader, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, is that he should know that we are still in this religion,” the man says. “And like they keep saying that they have defeated us; it is indeed not true, because we are in good health and succeeding in our cause. We are very strong and doing very well.”
“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 man says of the president. “Rather, he will die, he will die, he will die.”
“By the will of Allah, under the leadership of our leader (Shekau), we will capture Buhari with our hands,” the video continues. “We shall cut off your heads with our swords and guns.”
The video lasts nearly 13 minutes and features the man giving his speech, intermittently interrupted by chants of “allahu akbar!”
The video appeared on YouTube Monday night, and the man in the video claims it was recorded on September 9, 2016.
The Agence-France Presse (AFP) suggests the absence of Shekau himself lends some credibility to a Nigerian military claim that airstrikes had gravely wounded the leader. It also confirms that at least a faction of the terrorist group remains loyal to Shekau despite Islamic State leaders in Raqqa, Syria, announcing the appointment of another leader for its West Africa Province, a man known as Abu Musab al-Barnawi. The Islamic State had previously referred to al-Barnawi as a “spokesman” before an August publication identified him as the “governor” of the West Africa Province of the Islamic State. Some publications have identified al-Barnawi as the son of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram who died in 2009.
The Nigerian military has repeatedly insisted that Boko Haram is no longer a problem for them, with Buhari himself claiming that Nigeria “won the war” in December 2015. The organization has remained active in northeast Borno state, however, raiding villages and abducting hundreds of locals.
Recently, however, the terrorists have turned on themselves, with factions loyal to al-Barnawi attacking Shekau loyalists in Borno villages, sending civilians fleeing and prompting a small wave of surrenders of fighters who appeared to prefer prison in the hands of the Nigerian military than the fate awaiting them at the hands of their former terrorist colleagues.
In the interview announcing his leadership, al-Barnawi takes shots at Shekau’s management style, announcing that Boko Haram would cease its indiscriminate targeting of civilian population centers, particularly mosques and markets frequented by Muslims. Instead, al-Barnawi promised a sharper focus on executing terrorist attacks on churches and raiding Christian communities. The interview preceded the current wave of intra-Boko Haram violence and followed the Nigerian military’s announcement that Shekau had been hit by an airstrike, suggesting al-Barnawi is looking to consolidate power.