Derechos | Equipo Nizkor
Boko Haram Leader Is Wounded in Airstrike, Nigeria's Military Says
The Nigerian military said on Tuesday that airstrikes had killed and wounded several top Boko Haram commanders in the Sambisa Forest in the country's northeast, where militants have been hiding for months.
Among the wounded was Abubakar Shekau, who took the helm of the group after the death of its founder in 2009, according to Col. Sani Usman, a military spokesman. The military's attack took place on Friday.
At least three other top commanders were killed in "the most unprecedented and spectacular air raid," the military said in a news release.
The military has claimed to have killed Mr. Shekau before. Leaders of the militant group are thought to be holed up deep in the forest, and any reports of deaths or injuries to commanders were impossible to independently confirm.
The news release from the military on Tuesday prompted confusion by stating that Mr. Shekau was "fatally wounded on his shoulders." Colonel Usman later clarified, saying he had been wounded.
The Nigerian military has been stepping up its offensive against Boko Haram even as the group appears to be fracturing. Mr. Shekau has taken to YouTube in recent weeks to air a theological spat with Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who had previously been described as a spokesman for Boko Haram, over whether the group should refrain from targeting fellow Muslims with suicide bombings and other acts of violence. A recent issue of an Islamic State magazine ran an interview with Mr. Barnawi, in which it called him its "governor" for West Africa and made no mention of Mr. Shekau.
Mr. Barnawi is apparently leading an Islamic State-endorsed faction of Boko Haram. Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State last year.
During a visit to Nigeria on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a veiled warning to Nigeria's military against committing human rights abuses as it goes about battling Boko Haram.
Nigeria's military has been dogged by reports that, in its aggressive hunt to defeat Boko Haram, its soldiers kill civilians, torture prisoners and subject former captives or people fleeing militants to lengthy detention while trying to determine whether they are sympathizers.
Mr. Kerry dedicated much of his speech to urging Nigeria to prioritize employment and education for young people so they do not join groups like Boko Haram. He assailed Boko Haram's "nihilistic view of the world."
"They actually teach girls how to hold a bomb under their armpits so that the explosives remain steady. They show teenagers how to use swords to decapitate," Mr. Kerry said.
"We might as well ask how anyone could be brainwashed into such atrocities, but because the children are so young and because the abuse that they suffer is so great, even brave souls can be broken."
Tuesday's announcement follows a claim this month from Boko Haram, which released a video purporting to show the bodies of several girls who were kidnapped two years ago from a school in Chibok. A fighter who appears in the video says the girls were killed in Nigerian airstrikes on the forest.
The Chibok episode is the most high-profile hostage taking to date by the group. More than 250 girls were taken from Chibok, prompting a social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls. So far, only one has been rescued.
[Source: By Dionne Searcey, International New York Times, Dakar, 23Aug16]
Islamic paramilitary organizations
|This document has been published on 31Aug16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|