Michelle Faul and Haruna Umar,
10:59 a.m. EST December 31, 2016
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Boko Haram’s leader has declared in a new video that he is alive, denying Nigerian government claims that his Islamic extremist group has been crushed.
President Muhammadu Buhari said last week that soldiers had driven Boko Haram from its last forest enclave in the northeast, boasting “the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide.”
In a video posted on YouTube, Abubakar Shekau announced: “I am here, well and alive” and that “the battle is just beginning.” He urged his followers, in graphic terms, to continue the campaign.
Nigeria: Boko Haram crushed, forced out of last enclave
Nigeria’s military has claimed to have killed Shekau at least three times, and earlier this year declared he had been fatally wounded. This week, the army said it seized Shekau’s Quran in the Sambisa Forest assault — wanting to indicate he was on the run.
Each time such claims are made, the Boko Haram leader reappears in a video to mock them.
In the latest, posted on YouTube on Dec. 29, he reiterates that “our mission is to establish an Islamic caliphate” in Nigeria — whose 180 million people are divided almost equally between mainly Muslims in the north and a predominantly Christian south.
A look at attacks by Boko Haram
Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, appears on a video claiming to show some of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls on May 12 at an undisclosed location. The video shows about 130 of the 276 girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying at an undisclosed rural location. The schoolgirls were abducted on April 14 from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. AFP/Getty Images
In the video, Shekau does not mention some 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from a school in Chibok town who were believed to be held in the Sambisa Forest.
Nigeria is unlikely to see an end soon to the deadly suicide bombings, village attacks and assaults on remote military outposts in northeastern Nigeria. The Islamic State group, to which one faction of Boko Haram belongs, announced an attack on an army barracks “killed and wounded many” soldiers on Dec. 22 — the same day the army said it seized the forest hideout.
Already, there are reports that the insurgents have been regrouping south of their northeastern stronghold.
The seven-year-old Islamic uprising has killed more than 20,000 people, spread across Nigeria’s borders, driven 2.6 million from their homes and created a humanitarian disaster with some 5 million people facing starvation.
Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.