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Feared Boko Haram chief in Nigeria 'may be dead'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Nigerian army officials say that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the dreaded Islamist extremist group Boko Haram may have been killed in a clash with soldiers last month. Shekau is blamed for a bloody campaign on security targets and Christian churches across Nigeria.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Previous reports of Shekau's death have proved false. There has been no independent confirmation of the army account.

The Nigerian army says that Shekau, blamed for a campaign of terror across Africa's biggest oil-producing country, was hit during a gun battle near one of his camps in the northeast in late June.

He was then reportedly taken over the border into Cameroon where he was believed to have died between July 25 and August 3, according to the report issued by the military base in the northeast city of Maiduguri.

"Abubakur Shekau, the most dreaded and wanted Boko Haram terrorist leader, may have died," the statement read.

The group Boko Haram has wanted to impose Islamic law in Nigeria's north. Coupled with other spin-off Islamist groups, Boko Haram has become the biggest threat to stability in Nigeria.

While the death of Shekau would be a blow to Boko Haram's campaign, like the tail of a snake, the group has several factions without one specific leader. Spin-off groups like the al Qaeda-linked Ansaru, which has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing Westerners, are believed to operate independently.

Shekau assumed the leadership of Boko Haram when its founder Mohammed Yusuf was killed in police custody during a crackdown in 2009. After he took control, Boko Haram's insurgency has intensified, killing thousands in the last two years alone.

Shekau is the only high-profile member of Boko Haram. He has appeared in several videos posted on the Internet. Wagging his finger, Shekau vowed to bring down the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. He has also criticized the United States for its treatment of Muslims.

Concerned that West Africa could become the next main springboard for international Islamist militant attacks, the U.S. has offered a reward of $7 million for information leading to Shekau's capture.

Shekau's last public contact was thought to be in a video distributed to journalists in Maiduguri on Aug. 13. The Nigerian military maintains that the video is a fake.

"The recent video . was dramatized by an impostor to hoodwink the sect members to continue with the terrorism and to deceive the undiscerning minds," the military said in a statement.

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