The leader of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram claims in a video obtained by AFP on Tuesday that Nigerian soldiers have retreated during an ongoing military offensive and insurgents have sustained little damage.
The video marks the first public comments from Boko Haram leader
Abubakar Shekau since the start of a sweeping offensive by the Nigerian
army on May 15 and also includes a call for foreign Islamists to join
the fight in Nigeria.
Shekau’s whereabouts cannot be determined in the video, in which he
is shown seated while dressed in camouflage with a turban, an AK-47 at
His comments contradict statements from the military, which has
claimed major successes during the offensive, including the destruction
of Boko Haram camps and dozens of arrests.
It has been impossible to verify the claims of either side
independently, with the military having cut mobile phone service in much
of the country’s northeast and access to remote locations restricted.
“Since we started this ongoing war which they call state of emergency
… in some instances soldiers who faced us turned and ran,” Shekau said
in the hour-long video.
He claimed Nigerian forces “threw down their arms in flight.”
He called on like-minded Islamists in countries including
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to join the fight to create an Islamic
state in Nigeria.
“We call to us our brethren in these countries I mentioned. Oh! Our
brethren, come to us,” he said in the video, which alternates between
Arabic and the Hausa language spoken across northern Nigeria.
The video later purports to show vehicles and weapons seized from Nigerian soldiers.
Shekau, designated a global terrorist by the United States last year,
repeats earlier statements that Boko Haram “will not stop the kidnap of
your women and children until you set free our women and children, and
He also says Boko Haram’s goal is either the creation of an Islamic state or “martyrdom”.
The video was delivered to AFP though an intermediary in a manner
similar to previous Boko Haram messages. The images of Shekau in the
video are consistent with those previously released.
Nigeria launched the offensive against Boko Haram after President
Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states in the
country’s northeast, the Islamist insurgents’ stronghold.
Several thousand troops were deployed and fighter jets hit alleged Boko Haram camps.
On May 20, the military said it had re-established control in five
remote areas of the northeast where Islamist insurgents had seized
It had also claimed the arrests of 120 suspected insurgents.
The military’s latest statement says 25 insurgents were arrested and
three killed during operations at the weekend, including one identified
as “Abba” included on a most-wanted list. One soldier was also killed,
“Troops of the special forces have intercepted messages sent to
fleeing insurgents urging them not to give up but fight to the end,” the
“The attempt by some of them to heed the call was foiled during the
weekend as they were trailed to some settlements and towns towards the
border where they plan to regroup.”
Last week, the military also said it had freed three women and six children abducted by Boko Haram.
Nigeria’s government has also pledged to release certain suspects
held in connection with the insurgency as a peace gesture, including all
women and children.
Boko Haram has waged its insurgency since 2009, with an estimated
3,600 people left dead, including killings by the security forces.
The group has pushed for the creation of an Islamic state in Africa’s
most populous nation and largest oil producer, though its demands have
It is believed to include various factions with differing aims.
Nigeria’s military has come under heavy criticism over its response
to Boko Haram, including allegations of extra-judicial killings,
arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions.