Boko Haram chief has little control over fighters

2014-04-03 22:32
Abubakar Shekau (YouTube, AFP)

Abubakar Shekau (YouTube, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Lagos - Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau likely has little control over his fighters, the International Crisis Group said on Thursday, calling the Islamist terror group "more dispersed than ever".

A new report from the Brussels-based think-tank said many of Boko Haram's senior commanders are probably based outside Nigeria, including in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger.

Shekau, declared a global terrorist by the United States which put a $7m bounty on his head, frequently issues fiery video messages that claim credit for attacks.

But little is known about the insurgent commander, including his potential whereabouts or the extent of his influence in the Islamist militia blamed for killing 1 500 people already this year.

Boko Haram's "isolated leader, the violent Abubakar Shekau, probably has little daily control over cells," the Crisis Group said.

The insurgents were "more dispersed than ever, with many leaders in [Nigeria's] Adamawa mountains, Cameroon, and Niger", it added.

Boko Haram has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

It emerged more than a decade ago under the leadership of Mohammed Yusuf, a Muslim preacher from the northeast who gained considerable support through his vocal criticism of outrageous corruption.

Shekau had been one of Yusuf's top deputies and took over Boko Haram following Yusuf's death in police custody in 2009.


Under Shekau's leadership, "Boko Haram has grown more ruthless, violent and destructive", the Crisis Group said in a 62-page report on how to tackle the insurgency.

The group has been blamed for waves of gruesome attacks since 2010, notably suicide bombings at churches, the slaughter of defenceless civilians and students at boarding schools as they slept.

Citing an anonymous Nigerian intelligence source, the Crisis Group suggested Shekau has partially lost support because some Boko Haram members "are fed up with the bloodletting [and] want to settle down".

The Islamist group Ansaru, which is thought to be an offshoot of Boko Haram and has claimed the killing and murder of several foreign hostages, takes almost no direction from Shekau, it added.

Ansaru claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile abductions last year but little has been heard from the group in recent months.

The Crisis Group report supported the notion previously voiced by local and foreign analysts that force alone cannot end the insurgency.

It said massive development and poverty alleviation schemes in Nigeria's acutely poor north were needed to curb government resentment among those who have become vulnerable to radicalisation.

It noted a new "soft" approach announced by Nigeria's national security adviser last month that aims to tackle the root causes of the insurgency.

But it warned that "it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented".

Read more on:    boko haram  |  abubakar shekau  |  nigeria  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.