Laying Bare The Violent Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau

The Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, which means ‘western education is sinful’, has engaged in several atrocious enterprises but their recent kidnapping of 276 girls from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, tops all forms of man's inhumanity to man and has brought amplifying world attention to their diabolical activities.

With the US, France, China, and other countries joining hands with Nigeria, it is the hope of everyone that the ruthless leader of the insurgents, Abubakar Shekau, be captured and a crackdown of his ring of commanders.

According to CNN:

He is the face of terror. A ruthless leader with a twisted ideology. And the sadistic architect of a campaign of mayhem and misery.

And yet, very little is known about Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram.

He operates in the shadows, leaving his underlings to orchestrate his repulsive mandates. He resurfaces every once in a while in videotaped messages to mock the impotence of the Nigerian military. And he uses his faith to recruit the impressionable and the disenfranchised to his cause.

Religious scholar

Shekau was born in Shekau village that borders Niger Republic. He studied under a cleric and then attended Borno State College of Legal and Islamic Studies for higher studies on Islam. That’s why he’s also known as ‘Darul Tawheed,’ which translates to an expert in monotheism, or the oneness of Allah.

Polyglot

He speaks several languages fluently: Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri and Arabic. But English isn’t one of them. After all, he heads a group that rejects all things Western.

Elusive

Even his age is unknown - estimates range between 38 and 49. The U.S. State Department has Shekau’s year of birth listed as 1965, 1969 and 1975.

Loner

Analysts describe Shekau as a loner and a master of disguise. He does not speak directly with members, opting to communicate through a few select confidants. He uses many aliases: Abu Bakr Skikwa, Imam Abu Bakr Shiku and Abu Muhammad Abu Bakr Bin Muhammad Al Shakwi Al Muslimi Bishku among them.

Unruly

Boko Haram was founded by Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic, well-educated cleric who drove a Mercedes as part of his push for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria. He wasn’t too effective as a leader and had a hard time keeping his second-in-command in check. Shekau was more radical and had grander designs.

Merciless

Mohammed Yusuf was killed in a security crackdown in 2009, along with about 700 of his followers. That left Shekau in charge. He vowed to strike back, and his group has spared no one: government workers, police officers, journalists, villagers, students and church-goers. Human Rights Watch estimates that in the past five years, more than 3,000 people have been killed.

Back from the death

The Nigerian military has touted Shekau’s death several times, only to retract its claim after he appeared alive and vibrant in propaganda videos. They almost got him in September 2012 when they raided his home, where he had sneaked in for his six-day-old baby’s naming ceremony, according to the International Crisis Group. He managed to get away with a gunshot wound to the leg; his wife and three children were taken by the military.

Uses Islam to recruit and radicalize

The northeast, where Boko Haram has been most active, is economically depressed and among the least educated regions in Nigeria. Shekau has done a good job of convincing residents that the powers in Abuja are corrupt and a better system of government would be a strict enforcement of Islamic Sharia law across Nigeria. And his promise, coupled with a weapon and a license to plunder, has been enticing to hundreds of young men.

Government response

The central government’s heavy-handed and frequently untargeted anti-terrorism campaign has just helped create more members to sustain Boko Haram. The country’s own Human Rights Commission last year accused the military of arbitrary killings, torture and rape, in its campaign against the group. This makes for fertile territory for Boko Haram.

Exporting terror

There’s no firm evidence as yet that Boko Haram has ambitions beyond Nigeria. But its campaign of terror has spilled into remote parts of Cameroon and it appears to have informal links with militant Islamist groups in Mali and Niger.

Brutal threat

It was in May 2013 that Shekau first announced in a video that Boko Haram would start kidnapping girls. The kidnappings, he said, were retaliation for Nigerian security forces nabbing the wives and children of group members. The most horrifying instance was last month’s abduction of 276 girls from a girl’s school.

He also released a video in which he claimed responsibility for the abduction:

I abducted your girls. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.

$7 million bounty on his head

Shekau has been on the radar of U.S. officials since he came to power in 2009. Last June, the United States put a bounty on him, offering a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to his location.

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

We're paying for every slight error - Inter boss Inzaghi cries out after losing to Mourinho-less Roma

"We're paying for every slight error" - Inter boss Inzaghi cries out after losing to Mourinho-less Roma

Ex-Super Eagles and Barcelona star Amuneke makes Iheanacho his first signing in Zambia

Ex-Super Eagles and Barcelona star Amuneke makes Iheanacho his first signing in Zambia

'Anikulapo' is Kunle Afolayan's peace offering [Pulse Movie Review]

'Anikulapo' is Kunle Afolayan's peace offering [Pulse Movie Review]

Best-dressed housemates at the last aso-ebi themed BBNaija Saturday night party

Best-dressed housemates at the last aso-ebi themed BBNaija Saturday night party

'This is a dark day for football' - Reactions as over 120 people die in Indonesia stadium riot

'This is a dark day for football' - Reactions as over 120 people die in Indonesia stadium riot

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly edging closer to buying second football club

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly edging closer to buying second football club

ASUU Strike: FG orders Vice Chancellors to reopen universities

ASUU Strike: FG orders Vice Chancellors to reopen universities

BBNaija 7: Now that I'm out I will... - Allysyn shares plans for romance with Hermes

BBNaija 7: Now that I'm out I will... - Allysyn shares plans for romance with Hermes

BBNaija 7: Groovy was acting all busy, Amaka didn’t blow me a kiss - Phyna laments

BBNaija 7: Groovy was acting all busy, Amaka didn’t blow me a kiss - Phyna laments