By Soni Daniel, Clifford Ndujihe, Adekunle Aliyu & Kingsley Omonobi (with agency report)
ABUJA—Nigeria and Cameroon were, yesterday, locked in an argument over who killed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and where he was killed.
In a rare public show by the Cameroonian army (Armee Camerounaise), photos of Shekau were made public alongside a statement claiming he was killed during a cross-border raid deep inside Nigeria by its military.
A Cameroon military source, according to Cameroon Concord, said on Sunday night that Shekau was killed following an aerial bombardment of his hideout inside Nigeria.
On the other hand, the Nigerian Army is also laying claim to the same feat but without photographic evidence yet. The Nigerian Army said its soldiers might have killed Shekau in Konduga, a town some kilometres away from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
According to a report posted on its twitter handle, DHQ said yesterday that, “there was no raid whatsoever in any part of Nigeria’s territory in pursuit of terrorists as claimed in some reports allegedly quoting Cameroon military authorities.
“All operations on-going in the environs of Konduga and all associated border locations within the country are completely being undertaken by Nigerian troops.”
Reportedly, the Cameroon armed forces since Sunday have been in serious combat against thousands of Boko Haram fighters trying to enter Cameroon via Fotokol from Gamboru Ngala in Nigeria.
This came amid confusion over Shekau’s identity as military experts are trying to ascertain whether the dead ‘Shekau’ was Isa Damsaka or Bashir Mohammed, who are both top commanders believed to be posing as Shekau.
Meanwhile, efforts to exchange some of the abducted Chibok school girls with Boko Haram prisoners have flopped again.
The Nigerian military claimed that its troops might have killed Shekau on September 17 during a desperate attempt by the sect to capture Konduga as part of their plot to eventually march on and capture Maiduguri.
“It is getting more certain that the terrorist commander who has been mimicking Shekau in those videos is the one killed in Konduga on September 17, 2014, the military revealed.
The military, however, cautioned that “the process of confirming the dead body we have is the same as that character who has been posing as Shekau is ongoing. He is definitely a prominent terrorist commander. I don’t want to say anything about this yet, please.”
The military source insisted that the resemblance between Shekau and the corpse in their custody is too striking to be a coincidence. They cited his facial marks, beard and teeth in addition to the recovery by Nigerian troops of some of the armoured vehicles and Hilux SUVs that had featured in previous videos of the prime suspect. The source assured that the Defence Headquarters will soon address the nation after full investigation of their latest discovery.
The counter-claims by both countries have raised some posers: Who actually killed Shekau and where was he killed and how authentic are the claims?
Confusion over Shekau’s identity
Indeed, confusion reigns supreme over Shekau’s identity. Strident efforts by the Nigerian military high command to establish the true identity of the top Boko Haram leader who was shot dead last week, continued in earnest yesterday, even as the video of the slain man was obtained exclusively by Vanguard.
The military, it was learnt, had been cautious in making a formal announcement that Shekau had been killed as a similar declaration last year, was instantly countered by the sect, following the emergence of another ‘Shekau’ in several video posts on the Internet.
Vanguard gathered from top security sources that although a bearded man, who resembled Shekau in several material details, was shot dead in Konduga last week, the military was not sure whether the slain man was Isa Damsaka or Bashir Mohammed, who the security agencies claim had been mimicking the real Abubakar Shekau, said to have been killed since June 2013.
The apparent fear over the death of Shekau, in the battle for Konduga, it was also learnt, has caused some disquiet in the Boko Haram camp, especially as the video of the dead commander surfaced on the internet yesterday.
In the six-second video, the critically wounded ‘Shekau’ was seen lying on the ground writhing in pains as men in military uniform and civilians surround him with some voices saying, “Waste that man! Waste that man!”
However, the Australian negotiator, Dr. Stephen Davis, who claims to have worked closely with Abubakar Shekau, said yesterday that he was convinced that the real Shekau was killed since June 2013 by the Nigerian security agencies.
Shekau killed June 2013 — Davis
Davis, in a mail to Vanguard, said that Abubakar Shekau was killed around June 19, 2013 while they were close to concluding a peace deal on the Boko Haram insurgency.
Davis said: “I continue to hold to the position that Shekau was killed on or about June 19, 2013 when we were close to concluding a peace deal. Videos immediately prior to that time were produced using a “fake” Shekau. The fake Skekau is Isa Damsaka. It was confirmed to me by Boko Haram that he was killed in the recent military engagement at Konduga.
“Most members of Boko Haram have never seen Shekau. They believe what they have been told that Shekau is their leader. The real Shekau is dead. The Shekau the world has been seeing in videos is a “fake” and Boko Haram fighters have been fooled. They have followed blindly.
“The message of Boko Haram purifying Islam is also fake. When the Boko Haram leaders broke the news of Shekau’s death in June last year, they said he had diverted from the Holy Qu’ran through the kidnappings, rapes and beheadings. The fake Shekau continued these atrocities under the patronage of the sponsors and escalated their terrorist activities. Shekau is dead but they will try to find another to perpetuate the lie.
“This is the time for Boko Haram commanders to come forward and release the captive girls. There are Chibok girls and many other girls who have been kidnapped. Let commanders come forward and release a large number of girls as a first step towards a peace dialogue.
“I have no doubt the sponsors will try to prevent any commander releasing the girls as part of a peace deal. The pressure must therefore be put on the sponsors so the commanders can come forward.
“Shekau was killed on or about June 19, 2013 as we were concluding a peace deal. I have spoken at length to several senior people who were present. The Shekau impersonator recently killed was Isa Damsaka. Boko Haram leaders have been using him for quite some time to make their propaganda videos. The script is written for him by another commander which he then reads as he delivers his message on-camera.”
How Shekau was killed
Details of how Abubakar Shekau, the impostor and leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group was killed in a shoot-out with Nigerian troops in Konduga on Wednesday, September 17 emerged, yesterday, with military sources disclosing that he met his waterloo in an ambush reminiscent of the type the sect had been using to hack down Nigerian troops.
Vanguard gathered that during the first attack on Konduga, where hundreds of insurgents were taken unawares and killed after over seven hours of fighting with several of their colleagues, arms and ammunition captured, the military commanders strategically urged his captured members to send a message to Shekau that they (insurgents) have killed the troops.
Before the captured insurgents were urged to make the contact and deliver the message, the military commanders had promised them that their co-operation would play a role in the level of punishment to be meted to them after the battle, hence they felt reassured.
Also, the captured insurgents had disclosed that Shekau usually moved in a convoy of cars painted in military colours while he sits in a MOWAG Armoured tank with Boko Haram inscription on its front.
When Shekau was contacted, his captured men spoke to him in Arabic, assuring him that they had taken over Konduga, thereby giving him the positive signal to proceed from Sambisa Forest. To convince him further, some of his men that were captured were asked to sing the victory song in Kanuri language they normally sing at the background.
Having convinced himself that the messenger was his chief courier in such situation and the message was authentic, he and his followers made for Konduga, heavily armed with anti-aircraft weapons, general purpose machine guns, several AK-47 rifles and other IEDS’.
However, on entering Konduga town, he and his followers were encircled by strategically placed and heavily armed Nigerian soldiers. Immediately he contacted the messenger and discovered that something was amiss, he ordered his followers to start shooting in all directions.
This spurred the Army Commanders to give the directive to open fire. When he discovered that the fire power of the Nigerian Army who used both infantry and artillery weaponry was overwhelming, he jumped out of the MOWAG and made to escape.
But Nigerian soldiers spotted him and opened fire on him, inflicting serious injuries on his legs. It was learnt that he also received bullet wounds in other parts of his body as he was said to have bled to death.
Military sources had on Sunday night disclosed that Nigerian troops scored a strategic victory in the current battle against terrorists operating in the North-East on September 17.
Swap of Chibok girls with Boko Haram prisoners flops again
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that efforts of the security agencies to free the 219 Chibok girls from their Boko Haram captors has failed again.
Vanguard learnt from top security agents that the deal to free the girls, who have spent 162 days with their abductors, had broken down almost irretrievably as a result of the inexplicable decision by the Boko Haram side to ask for impossible conditions.
One of the conditions put down by Boko Haram at the last minute was that the Federal Government must account for and produce 18 of its top commanders said to have been captured and detained in several detention facilities across the country.
Although the government was willing to free some of the Boko Haram detainees in exchange for the girls, a top government source, who was privy to the discussions, said that many of the Boko Haram commanders could not be traced.
The top government official said: “Boko Haram commanders suddenly demanded an equal man-to-man exchange instead of the agreed total girls for 16 Boko Haram prisoners. Also, of the 16 prisoners, not all of them could be traced by the government side.
“The exchange of the Chibok girls with the Boko Haram prisoners was to take place at an agreed location in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. But the true position of things as of today is that the talks have broken down.”
Answering a question, the government official said that Nigeria opted to bring in the International Committee of the Red Cross as a facilitator because of its neutrality and competence in facilitating such exchange of prisoners in many parts of the world.