A recently published video purportedly shows shadowy Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau once again contradicting reports that the Nigerian military injured him in northeastern Nigeria, the group’s stronghold.
“I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive,” a seemingly unwounded Shekau said in the 14-minute video, wearing his trademark camouflage jacket and carrying an assault rifle, reveals Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“What surprises me is your claim that I’m nursing wounds. Look at me well. Look at my sitting posture,” the leader defiantly added.
The Nigerian government has falsely claimed on various occasions over more than a year that it has killed or injured the chief of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-affiliated group, but Shekau usually appears soon after denying the claims.
Various news outlets reported this week that the Nigerian military had injured the Boko Haram leader and killed one of his deputies as well as a key lieutenant, among other members of the jihadist group.
This time, the Nigerian military was hesitant to confirm the reports, saying only that it had “neutralized quite a number of terrorists,” including some in Balla Village where the airstrikes took place.
“The Nigerian authorities’ reticence about naming Shekau is likely to come from previous occasions when his death has been announced prematurely, only for him to reappear in video messages,” points out AFP.
Two Nigerian air force warplanes reportedly bombed Boko Haram terrorists at Balla Village, located on the edge of the portion of Nigeria’s vast Sambisa forest that lies in Borno state.
The Nigerian government considers the Nigerian forest, which covers parts of the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, and Kano, to be the group’s last enclave” in the country.
Babakura Kolo, a member of the civilian militia in the Borno state capital and Boko Haram birthplace Maiduguri, told AFP, “Shekau was injured, and a number of commanders were killed.”
“There were indications that quite a number of the terrorists’ key leaders have either been killed or wounded,” Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, a spokesman for the Nigerian army, said Thursday, without explicitly naming Shekau.
Nevertheless, the Boko Haram chief has appeared in a new video rebuking the claims, insisting that neither he nor any of his high-ranking jihadists were wounded.
In fact, he claimed ignorance of when and where the airstrikes took place.
“I’m alive; you have not killed any of my men. I didn’t even know this incident you are talking about ever happened,” declared Shekau, speaking in Hausa and Arabic in the video.
However, an unnamed source with links to Boko Haram told AFP that the group’s leader narrowly escaped death during the attack on Balla village.
He dismissed Shekau’s video denial as “bloody propaganda.”
“Shekau hurt his back from the impact of the second strike. He was injured in the back and then taken out of the area to a place around Kolofata (near the Cameroon border),” he proclaimed. “You can see he is not the same Shekau we were seeing in other videos. He didn’t exude the same energy.”
Despite losses, including manpower and territory, incurred as a result of a U.S.-backed ongoing offensive against Boko Haram that began in 2015, the jihadist group continues to wreak havoc in the Lake Chad region — Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad.
The Nigeria-based Boko Haram group is responsible for 20,000 deaths since 2009. Boko Haram has also displaced more than 2.6 million people, leaving them homeless.
According to a recently published United Nations report, Boko Haram is behind the deaths of at least 3,900 children and injuries of 7,00 others.