Health, leadership questions about Boko Haram's Shekau

2018-06-29 21:28
Abubakar Shekau (YouTube, AFP)

Abubakar Shekau (YouTube, AFP)

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

Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau is said to be weakened by ill health, prompting questions about his ability to lead the Islamist militants, two well-placed sources told AFP on Friday

The sources said Shekau has a range of conditions that have left him "too weak to be in charge" of the jihadists, whose insurgency has killed at least 20 000 in Nigeria since 2009.

"He has high blood pressure and failing sight from diabetes-related complications," said one source with close knowledge of the group's activities.

A senior security source tracking the conflict, who also asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, described Shekau's diabetes as "debilitating".

"He suffers from diminished eyesight from cataracts or glaucoma as a result of diabetes," he added.

The source with knowledge of Boko Haram's activities said Shekau and his lieutenants have been in talks this week about his "failing health" and whether he was well enough to lead.

Boko Haram split in mid-2016 over ideological differences.

One faction, headed by Abu-Mus'ab Al-Barnawi, whose father Mohammed Yusuf founded Boko Haram, won the support of the Islamic State group.

Some experts suggested that with Shekau off the scene, the different groups could be reconciled.

 Lengthy disappearance 

Shekau used to appear frequently on video messages from the group, particularly at the height of the conflict, when Boko Haram ran riot across northeast Nigeria, seizing territory.

The Nigerian authorities have claimed Shekau has died or been killed on at least three occasions, and that he has been replaced by a series of lookalikes.

Shekau's last appearance on camera was in a 14-minute video released on February 6 in which he claimed responsibility for attacks in Borno state capital, Maiduguri, and other towns.

He was previously seen on January 15 in an 11-minute video in which some of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted in 2014 vowed never to return to their parents.

Both sources said between February and April last year, Shekau was bed-ridden in Bulayaga, a village in the Konduga area of Borno, near his group's Sambisa Forest stronghold.

Bulayaga is some 35km from Maiduguri.

"No-one thought he would survive because he was terribly sick from diabetes and malaria," said the security source.

Shekau resurfaced in a video published on May 4, 2017, rejecting claims he had been injured in a Nigerian air strike the previous day at the nearby village of Balla.

"I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive," he said.

But in it, he looked frail and appeared to have difficulty reading from a prepared speech, which he held close to his face in an apparent indication of vision problems.

 Reconciliation or power struggle? 

Nigeria maintains Boko Haram is a spent force, despite continued attacks.

The August 2016 split caused bitter in-fighting and saw Shekau lose men, territory and weapons.

Barnawi, whose group operates in northern Borno around the shores of Lake Chad, is now seen as "more in charge", said the source.

Yan St-Pierre, counter-terrorism advisor and head of the Modern Security Consulting Group, said Shekau's removal would only have a "limited" effect internally and on operations.

"Most terrorist organisations always have a 'next man up' planned because leadership could be lost at any time," he said in emailed comments.

"The myth of Shekau" could also remain as a "galvanising factor" for Boko Haram fighters, he added.

The security source suggested the removal of Shekau "could signal the mending of fences between the two factions".

"Shekau has been the major wedge to reconciliation between the factions and if he resigns, the prospect of a truce and merger between the factions is high," he added.

Ryan Cummings, Africa security analyst at the Signal Risk group, agreed the two sides could move closer but also suggested it could trigger a power struggle in the high command.

That "could trigger further violent factionalism", he added.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

Read more on:    isis  |  boko haram  |  abubakar shekau  |  nigeria  |  west africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com 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.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

SQL Reporter

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town IT
R10 000.00 - R12 000.00 Per Month

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

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 24.com network.

Settings

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.