Nigeria Army claims Boko Haram leaders killed in attack
MAIDUGURI — Nigeria’s military said on Wednesday it had killed the second-in-command of Islamist group Boko Haram, and another top commander, while repelling an insurgent attack earlier this month.
Earlier reports quoted the army chief in the town of Mubi, Beyidi Marcus Martins, as saying that Mohammad Bama and Abubakar Zakariya Yau had been arrested near the town of Mubi last week and had confessed they planned an operation in the Taraba province to the south, before they were killed.
A separate military statement said Mr Bama and Mr Yau had been killed by troops on August 4 during an attack.
There was a bounty of 25-million naira (R1.5m) on their heads. The military previously said 17 insurgents were killed in the August 4 battle.
There was no independent confirmation of the circumstances surrounding the men’s death and Boko Haram has not commented publicly on the loss of its commanders. Bama “was the terrorists’ operation officer and second-in-command to Abubakar Shekau”, the Boko Haram chief who has been declared a global terrorist by the US, Wednesday’s statement added.
While Boko Haram’s composition has been hard to unravel, a source familiar with the group’s make-up confirmed Mr Bama’s status as Mr Shekau’s deputy. Mr Musa said “it took over a week to verify” Mr Bama’s identity.
The military has previously claimed it had killed senior Boko Haram commanders, but such reports have not coincided with a decline in violence and it is not clear if Mr Bama’s alleged death would have a significant effect on the insurgent group.
Boko Haram is believed to be made up of various factions.
Some analysts say Mr Shekau and his inner circle lead the hardcore Islamist branch, which is committed to creating an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and has no interest in dialogue. Human rights groups have accused Nigerian soldiers of carrying out extrajudicial killings during their fight against Boko Haram. The army has always denied the accusations.
Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law in Nigeria’s north has become the biggest threat to stability in Africa’s top oil exporter.
In mid-May this year, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency and launched an offensive against the group in its strongholds in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the northeast.
The military has claimed huge successes against the Islamists in the three-month operation, describing them as being in disarray and on the run. But a spate of brutal and deadly attacks in recent weeks has raised questions about the effectiveness of the military campaign.
Boko Haram’s main target is security forces or government officials, but it has carried out several attacks on Christian and Muslim worshippers, as well as schools and markets.
Raids on a mosque and a village at the weekend in the northeast left at least 59 people dead.
In a nighttime attack targeting children, Boko Haram gunmen stormed a secondary school in the farming village of Mamudo last month, killing 41 pupils and one teacher.
Some analysts say the military may have only succeeded so far in pushing the insurgents into more remote areas, where the recent violence has occurred.
The insurgency has left nearly 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces, whose members have been accused of major abuses.
Nigeria has a population of about 160-million — roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and a predominately Christian south.
“A lot has been said against us: that we are finished, they have finished with us. All these are lies,” Mr Shekau said on Tuesday.
“We are alive. Nobody killed us, and we shall continue to kill until Boko Haram is accepted by the people,” he said.
Boko Haram — which means “western education is sinful” and intends to implement Islamic law in Nigeria — has flourished due to growing discontent in the West African country, especially among minorities and the rural poor.AFP