Who would be eligible for the bounty money on Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram's leader's head? (Pic: Courtesy punchng.com)
Dreaded Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau is presumed dead, after he was besieged in his lair by his rival, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Shekau’s death followed frenzied media speculation. Would Iswap become eligible for receiving a $7 million or Rs. 51 crores bounty that the US Department of Justice had placed on his head?
The US Justice Department has just killed the story.
In a tweet the Justice Department has clarified that the terror organisation certainly is not going to get the money.
The tweet says: “News reports today indicate that Boko Haram terrorist Abubakar Shekau blew himself up in a confrontation with ISIS affiliates. Hey, ISIS guys. To clarify: no – you are not eligible for the reward for information on his identity or location. That’s not how the programme works.”
Kafofin labarai sun nuna cewa dan ta'addan Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau ya tarwatsa kansa a arangamar da suka yi da mayakan ISIS a yau. To ku ji fa da kyau ‘yan ISIS: a'a – ko kadan ba ku cancanci karbar lada ba don bayani kansa ko wurin da yake. Ba haka wannan tsarin yake aiki ba. pic.twitter.com/xQSncOuFn0
— Récompenses pour la Justice (@RFJ_Francais) May 20, 2021
Shekau was apparently killed on Wednesday after mobile columns of the Iswap fighters had travelled from their strongholds along Lake Chad, and cornered the Boko Haram leader at his base in the Sambisa forest.
According to the Nigerian news website HumAngle, after his bodyguards were killed or captured, Shekau surrendered, and tried to cut a deal with Iswap. But after he was asked to issue a humiliating surrender statement, Shekau blew himself up, detonating a suicide vest that he was wearing. All people present during the negotiations were also instantly killed.
However, the AFP news agency reported that when Shekau reached the point of no return, after being surrounded by Iswap fighters, he shot himself in the chest and fell on the ground. While he was bleeding profusely, he was whisked away to an unknown destination by some of his surviving loyal fighters.
On June 21, 2012, the US Department of State designated Shekau a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224.
The department later placed up to $7 million reward on him, saying, “Abubakar Shekau is the leader of Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah il-Da’awati wal-Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” is a Nigeria-based terrorist organization that seeks to overthrow the current Nigerian government and replace it with a regime based on Islamic law. The group has existed in various forms since the late 1990s.
“There are reported communications, training, and weapons links between Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Shabaab, and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which may strengthen Boko Haram’s capacity to conduct terrorist attacks.
According to the US agencies, Shekau was previously the group’s second-in-command. In July 2010, he publicly claimed leadership of Boko Haram and threatened to attack Western interests in Nigeria. Later that month, Shekau issued a second statement expressing solidarity with Al-Qaeda and threatening the United States.
Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram’s operational capabilities have grown. The group set off its first vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED) in June 2011, and has increasingly utilized IEDs in attacks against soft targets. Boko Haram’s August 26, 2011 vehicle-bomb attack on the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria marked the group’s first lethal operation against Western interests. At least 23 people were killed, and 80 more were injured, in the attack.
Under Shekau’s leadership Boko Haram has continually targeted young children. On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped close to 300 girls from their school in northern Nigeria. In a video message released three weeks later, Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, calling the girls slaves and threatening to sell them in the market.
One survivor girl who was now relocated in the US says, “It was not easy for me at all. I had nightmares which scared me, and most times, interrupted my sleep for more than a year after I moved to the US. It did not help my healing process. The Boko Haram terrorists warned every one of us that if we wanted to be alive, we must quit school, else they would find us and kill us, no matter where we ran to. I was so scared. The voice kept echoing in my head, telling me I was going to die.”