Is Shekau, Nigerian Sect "Boko Haram" leader dead?
There is confusion over reports of the death of Imam Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram sect, as pronounced today by the Nigerian military in Maiduguri, Borno State.
This is the second time in four years that security agencies are declaring Shekau dead. In July 2009, after the killing of Boko Haram's pioneer leader, Mohammed Yusuf, the agencies publicly announced that Shekau was also killed in a confrontation. Shekau then resurfaced in deadlier attacks against the Nigerian state in 2010. It is that background that makes today's pronouncement that Shekau may have been killed in a gun battle in the past three weeks a source of debate.
Although SaharaReporters is still investigating the announcement, it was further gathered that the military based their conclusion largely on confessions made by some sect members captured in the course of its recent clamp down. They are still being interrogated.
A source in the know about how Boko Haram operates once stated that Shekau does not communicate directly with the group's foot soldiers, instead wielding his power through a few select cell leaders. Even then, contact with them is said to be minimal. This means the confusion over his whether he is dead or alive will continue until his video messages cease completely.
It is significant that only a few hours after the pronouncement concerning Shekau's possible death, SaharaReporters was authoritatively told that the Nigerian Air Force has commenced air strikes against Boko Haram in the troubled North-East zone of Nigeria comprising Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states which have since May 2013 been under a State of Emergency.
Several planes are presently carrying out surveillance, searching for Boko Haram camps along Nigeria's boundaries with Cameroon, Tchad and Niger.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, personally oversees the operations, which are being carried out from Yola, Adamawa state. Badeh, according to a source present when he visited Yola yesterday, said NAF will continue with air strikes in established Boko Haram locations.