Abubakar Shekau: Back From The Dead?

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 3 2014 @ 5:15pm

The elusive Boko Haram leader, whom Nigeria had claimed was dead, appeared in a video on Thursday to taunt his enemies:

So much for the Nigerian government’s insistence that it killed him two weeks ago. In the video, Shekau, who claims for the second time to have declared an Islamic caliphate in northeastern Nigeria, is seen standing in an unidentified location, wielding a large gun, and wearing camouflage and a traditional scarf. Speaking in Hausa, a common language in the region, he states that no one but Allah can decide when he will die. “Here I am, alive,” he said. “I will only die the day Allah takes my breath.”

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the only news agency to obtain a full version of the 36-minute video, the footage shows gruesome acts of violence carried out by the extremist group, including amputations and deaths by stoning and beheading. In some shots, groups of people, including children, are gathered around to watch to the violence.

Adam Taylor adds:

Shekau’s “death” and reappearance show just how difficult a figure he is to understand.

As my colleague Terrence McCoy has noted, Shekau may lead one of the world’s most notorious extremist groups and have a $7 million bounty on his head, but basic facts about his life (for example, his age) are hard to ascertain. Stranger still, analysts believe that there may be more than one person posing as “Abubakar Shekau.” In one analysis, the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium looked at different videos released by Boko Haram and found significant inconsistencies in “Shekau.”

That seems to be the story the Nigerian military is running with, as it maintains that Shekau really is dead:

In a statement, the Nigerian Defense Headquarters insisted the man in the video, who it says it actually a militant named Mohammed Bashir, was killed last month during a battle in the town of Kondunga. Last week, the military released photos showing a strong resemblance between the bearded man in the video with a corpse found after the battle. Thursday’s statement said the new video, released by French news agency AFP, had no indication of when it was recorded and did not make any reference to events that have happened since the death of what the military called “the impostor.”