Boko Haram Leader Linked to Kidnapped Girls Arrested While ‘Disguised as Cowboy’

AP Photo
AP Photo

Jarasu Shira, a high-ranking member of Boko Haram, whom Nigerian authorities have linked to the abduction of more than 200 girls and young women from Chibok, northern Borno state, was arrested this week boarding a bus to southern Lagos city. Witnesses attest the man was disguised in a cowboy outfit to avoid attention.

Shira and ten other suspected members of the Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group encountered local vigilantes in Damboa, Borno, who positively identified them, arrested them, and handed them over to Nigerian law enforcement, the Daily Trust reports. The arrest occurred in the morning, and witnesses told the newspaper Shira was “disguised in a cowboy outfit.”

Shira has been identified as a regional Boko Haram chief in Damboa, Chibok, and Askira Uba, all in Borno; he is one of 100 Boko Haram members on a government-issued chart of Nigeria’s most-wanted criminals. Authorities have linked him to the planning of a mass abduction in Chibok of girls and young women taking a secondary school physics examination in April 2014. Most of those abducted have not been found, though officials believe they are being kept as slaves in the Sambisa forest of northern Nigeria.

The Nigerian government recently touted another arrest off the chart of most-wanted criminals: 11-year-old Usman Modu Tella, believed to have been brainwashed and imminently plotting a suicide bombing. Boko Haram routinely uses children as suicide bombers after abducting them, as they are easier to brainwash and less suspicious to authorities when sent into target areas wearing a bomb.

The Nigerian outlet Naij claims Shira ranks #1 on the chart of most-wanted criminals. The Nigerian military have, on multiple occasions, claimed they have killed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, though someone claiming to be Shekau has released audio recordings claiming to still be alive. As Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015, ISIS “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the ultimate leader of the terrorist organization.

Naij notes also that Shira’s arrest has followed a number of raids on Boko Haram, beginning with the arrest of more than 150 suspected Boko Haram members on January 14. The Nigerian military has repeatedly claimed since December that it has defeated Boko Haram. “The terrorists have been defeated; these criminals may rear their ugly heads through other means. We will continue to maintain vigilance,” Nigerian Army Chief Tukur Buratai claimed on January 12.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has echoed that claim, saying this month, “We have won the war.” In August, Buhari vowed to eradicate the terrorist group by December.

Boko Haram is still significantly active, however. The week after Buhari’s victory announcement, Boko Haram female suicide bombers killed 80 people in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. In mid-January, another group of female suicide bombers struck in Cameroon, near the Nigerian border, killing 12.

Many Boko Haram terrorists have fled to Cameroon, where they have begun attacking mosques during Friday prayers, when they are most populated. As a result, Christian residents of the villages attacked have been working to protect the mosques, fearing Boko Haram’s hostility toward Muslims deemed insufficiently devout pales in comparison to its aggression against Christians. Boko Haram has attacked five mosques in Cameroon this year. In the latest attack, authorities identified the suicide bomber as a 14-year-old boy.