The Nigerian Military reported on Tuesday that Boko Haram‘s leader, Abubakar Shekau, was killed by their airstrikes.

While the extremist militants were engaging in their Friday prayers in their jihadist main base in Sambisa forest, the Nigerian army struck the area with an air raid killing about 300 militants along with their leader. The announcement has left many wondering how the Nigerian military knew it had killed Abubakar Shekau, or what proof did they have for their conquest.

Boko Haram
Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag. Image credit: Emmanuel Braun/Reuters

According to the New York Times, this would not be the first time that Nigeria has reported to have killed a Boko Haram leader. In fact, it would appear to be the third time this announcement is made, the previous two times turned out to be false as the ‘slain’ leader resurfaced in video and audio recordings after the fact. Simultaneously, the military believes that Boko Haram was using fighters who resembled Abubakar Shekau to impersonate him after he was deemed dead.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Nigeria

On the same day of the announcement, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, paid a trip to Africa’s highest populated country. The agenda for the trip is to discuss Islamic extremism and regional security with Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, Deputy National Chairman of APC North West, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, and some religious leaders were all reportedly present during Kerry’s closed-door meeting with the Sultan at his palace. However, Kerry made no public mention of the military’s announcement.

John Kerry
On Tuesday morning, Kerry visited Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, and praised him for promoting religious tolerance and understanding among Nigerians. Image credit: Reuters.

Kerry took the opportunity to speak out against the ill-treatment of escaped Boko Haram captives, stating: “breaking the cycle of violence requires treating those who escape or defect from Boko Haram, and particularly those who were abducted against their will, with sensitivity as they return to their old communities.”

Kerry was making reference to the reports of how the Nigerian Military is recapturing escaped Boko Haram detainees for questioning, on suspicion that they are still tied to the extremist group.

Moreover, even though the Islamic extremist group leader was pronounced dead, his fighters attacked a village Chibok in northeastern Nigeria, where almost 300 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in 2014, on Saturday killing ten people and taking 13 women and girls hostage.

Since 2014 saw #BringBackOurGirls, many of the girls managed to escape, but the whereabouts of approximately 218 girls remain unknown. The situation for many of those who have managed to escape the clutches of Boko Haram remains delicate.

Nigerian military has reportedly been uncertain of the boys or young men who have escaped, saying that it is difficult to know who is seeking refuge and who is still working for the group.

Even the girls and women are potential suspects; some are known to be used to kill. The roles of victim and potential threat seem to be intertwined where distinguishing the two remains a complex and controversial process.

Source: The New York Times