By Uduma Kalu
Death of Yusuf
The leader of an Islamic sect blamed for days of deadly violence in Nigeria was killed in police custody, police officials say last Thursday. The news came just hours after security forces said they had captured Mohammed Yusuf in the city of Maiduguri.
Yusuf leads Boko Haram, which wants to overthrow the government and impose a strict version of Islamic law.
Hundreds of people have died in five days of clashes between his followers and security forces.
â€œHe has been killed. You can come and see his body at the state police command headquarters,â€ Isa Azare, spokesman for the Maiduguri police command, told Reuters news agency. His bullet-riddled body was shown on state television, AFP news agency said.
Troops had stormed Boko Haramâ€™s stronghold on Wednesday night, killing many of the militants and forcing others to flee. Yusuf was arrested earlier on Thursday, after reportedly being found hiding in a goat pen at his parents-in-lawâ€™s house.
BBC News Website Africa Editor Joseph Winter says Nigeriaâ€™s security forces have a terrible reputation for brutality and human rights groups accuse them of frequent extra-judicial killings.
Troops shelled on Tuesday the home of â€˜Nigerian Talibanâ€™ leader on the third day of fierce clashes that have left more than 250 people dead, witnesses said.
Last Tuesday, sporadic mortar fire and gunshots were heard as soldiers shelled the home of Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri, sending plumes of smoke rising over the capital of northern Borno state.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, speaking in the capital Abuja, said the situation in northern Nigeria was â€˜under controlâ€™ and indicated that a final assault was underway.
â€˜We have the situation under control now and I believe that by the end of the day, everything would have been taken care of,â€™ Yarâ€™Adua told reporters as he boarded a flight at Abuja airport for Brazil.
Will Yusufâ€™s death end Boko Haram?
Boko Haram launched co-ordinated attacks across Northern Nigeria, with a vow to overthrow the government and impose strict Islamic law. But who are they?
Since the group emerged in 2004, they have become known as â€œTalibanâ€, although they appear to have no links to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Some analysts believe they took inspiration from the radical Afghans, others say the name is more a term used by people in Maiduguri, the area where they were founded.
The groupâ€™s other name, Boko Haram, means â€œWestern education is a sinâ€ and is another title used by local people to refer to the group.
However, it is also said that the group has no specific name for itself, just many names attributed to it by local people. If their name is uncertain, however, their mission appears clear enough – to overthrow the Nigerian state, impose an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and abolish what they term as â€œWestern-style educationâ€.
In an interview with the BBC, the groupâ€™s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, said such education â€œspoils the belief in one Godâ€.
â€œThere are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam,â€ he said.
â€œLike rain. We believe it is a creation of God rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain. Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism.â€
Yusuf himself was something of an enigma. He was believed to be in his mid-thirties, and analysts say he was extremely wealthy and highly educated.
â€œHe is well educated and very proficient in English. He lives lavishly – people say he drives a Mercedes Benz. â€ says Nigerian academic Hussain Zakaria.
Future of Boko Haram and govt connection
Despite the secrecy surrounding the group, many in Nigeria say the attacks were far from surprising.
Mannir Dan Ali, a journalist in Abuja, says there was a minor incident in early June which appeared to spark a series of statements from the group threatening reprisals.
Another journalist says ,â€Now it is becoming a monster, the government has realised it has made a mistake The whole situation seems to be a failure of intelligence, a failure of the security forces to act before matters reached the point that they have now reached,â€ he says. â€œWe could literally see it coming over the past few weeks.â€
There has been widespread criticism of the security forces for their perceived laxness in monitoring the group.
Boko Haramâ€™s members are largely drawn from disaffected youth -university students and jobless graduates among them.
Aminu Abubakar, a journalist covering the area for the AFP news agency, says it is widely believed that the authorities have been reluctant to deal with the militants because some of them come from rich families with connections to the government.
Upsurge in violence
More than 100 people were killed as a wave of unrest spread from the city of Bauchi on Sunday through Borno, Yobe and Kano states the following day. And no-one seems to know just how big a threat the so-called Taliban pose, how big their membership is, or what their next move could be.