The Nigerian military on Wednesday issued an official confirmation to reports that Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric leader of Boko Haram, whose death the military has claimed repeatedly only to turn out untrue, has been killed by security forces.
Officially, the military insists the real Mr. Shekau was killed by soldiers more than a year ago, but that his character had been assumed by another leader of the deadly group.
The impersonator is the man who appeared in several Boko Haram propaganda videos, claiming he is Mr. Shekau, the military said.
It was that new face of Mr. Shekau that was killed in a fierce clash with the military last week in Konduga, near Maiduguri, Borno State, defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, said Wednesday.
That man, Mr. Olukolade said, was Mohammed Bashir, known also with several aliases.
The statement Wednesday was the first official confirmation of the death of Mr. Shekau since news broke last week he had been killed in a confrontation as militants moved to attack Maiduguri.
While the Nigerian military, unofficially, laid claims to the killing of Mr. Shekau, its Cameroonian counterpart also claimed credit for it saying Mr. Shekau was killed at Gamboru near the border.
The Nigerian military rejects that claim.
Mr. Olukolade said the alleged Shekau’s double was targeted amongst other leaders of the group in Konduga when the military’s land and air forces engaged a convoy of combat vehicles conveying several militants.
“Several of the terrorists, including some of their commanders, lost their lives in the encounters which lasted an average of about 5 hours each,” the defence spokesperson said.
“The troops captured some of the terrorists and their equipment. In the course of those encounters, one Mohammed Bashir who has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group died.
Mr. Olukolade said after the clash, the identity of Mr. Bashir was confirmed by the locals in Konduga. Mr. Bashir’s other names he said included Abubakar Shekau, alias Abacha Abdullahi Geidam alias Damasack.
“Since the name Shekau has become a brand name for the terrorists’ leader, the Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title as well as all terrorists that seek to violate the freedom and territory of Nigeria,” the military said.
Mr. Olukolade said 135 other terrorists on Tuesday evening surrendered along with equipment to troops around Biu Local Government Area.
A group of 88 submitted themselves at Mairiga/Bun – Yadi while another group of 45 terrorists were taken in around Mubi – Michika. They are all being interrogated and processed in conformity with the dictates of standard best practices.
“The Defence Headquarters applauds the gallantry of the Nigerian troops who have remained undaunted and professional in prosecuting this campaign against terror,” he said.