Boko Haram has been waging a war against the Nigerian state since 2009, using its violent campaign to pursue the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria’s northeast.
The group held over 14 local governments at a time. But General Tukur Buratai, Nigeria’s chief of army staff, who oversaw the rein in of the terror group’s activities, wants its leader Abubakar Shekau captured dead or alive.
“The Chief of Army Staff, Nigerian Army, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, has directed the Theatre Commander, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, to capture Abubakar Shekau, the so-called and self-styled leader of Boko Haram terrorist group, dead or alive,” army spokesperson Sani Usman said in a statement late on Friday.
“The theatre commander has further been directed to do so within 40 days. He is to employ all arsenals at the disposal of the Theatre Command to smoke out Shekau wherever he is hiding in Nigeria,” Usman added.
Last August, the Nigerian military claimed that the Boko Haram leader was seriously wounded in an airstrike which killed many of the group’s commanders. The Nigerian authorities had at different times previously claimed to have killed the terror group’s leader only for those assertions to be debunked by Shekau.
“You have been spreading in the social media that you injured or killed me,” Shekau said in a 40-minute video released on Youtube and dated September 25.
“Oh tyrants, I’m in a happy state, in good health and in safety.”
Apart from having to fight off the onslaughts from the Nigerian and multinational troops, Shekau has had to contend with an internal strife which has left the group factionalised.
In August 2016, the Islamic State group said the son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf, Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, was the new leader of its “West Africa province”. Shekau, who pledged allegiance to IS in March 2015, has maintained he was still in charge.
According to the United Nations, nearly two million people in the northeast region are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition and 5.5 million are in need of food aid.