Between July 25 and August 3 the Nigerian military suspects that Abu-Bakr Shekau, the leader of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, died of wounds he sustained in a firefight with government forces. Many, including Christians in Nigeria, are questioning what Boko Haram’s reaction to this news will be. Will the group come to the negotiation table and broker a peace deal or will they become more violent? In weeks following the suspected death of Shekau, Boko Haram has perpetrated a series of brutal attacks, maybe indicating the choice the group has already made. Please pray for the persecuted Christians of Nigeria as they face this chaotic time.
9/3/2013 Nigeria (Geopolitical Monitor) – Nigeria’s military has announced that Abu-Bakr Shekau, the leader of the militant group Boko Haram, died of a gunshot wound sustained when government forces attacked his hideout near the border with Cameroon sometime between 25 July and 3 August. The military counterinsurgency unit that made this declaration was established to take over the mission from the Special Forces and pursue and attack Boko Haram at every possible turn. The Nigerian military has launched several attacks on Boko Haram in its strongholds in the northeast of the country since May, and militants have responded in turn by ramping up attacks on civilian and military targets.
Abu-Bakr Shekau was one of the most prominent terrorists within Boko Haram. He was the leader of the extremist faction of the militant main group, which carried out violent campaigns that resulted in the deaths of at least 3,600 people since 2009. This group has affiliated itself with al-Qaeda and it targets anyone who abides by civil (Western) laws, education, and culture – even their fellow Muslims.
However, the available evidence is still insufficient to confirm Shekau’s death.
There are two possible outcomes that could result if the death of Abu-Bakr Shekau is confirmed. On one hand, constructive engagement and social reconciliation could become easier, since it has long been reported that Shekau was an obstacle in launching and sustaining any peace dialogue with the sect. Shekau also derailed development in Nigeria by fueling tensions between ethnic groups. Ethnic violence halted local development activities, frightened investors and alarmed neighboring countries to the north of Nigeria. Therefore, the death of Shekau could hasten the resolution of the conflict in the north, pave the way for social reconciliation in Nigeria, and enable equal development and distribution of wealth between north and south.
In addition, the death of Shekau might weaken Boko Haram and make it vulnerable to attacks by the Nigerian and US governments. Therefore, killing Shekau could have an enormous effect on the way the group is organized and its capacity to carry out bloody attacks in the future. However, sufficient information is not available on the composition and organization of Boko Haram, so it’s difficult to predict the extent of any possible weakness resulting from the death of the group’s leader.
On the other hand, Boko Haram might become more aggressive in response to the death of Shekau. Since the army announced Shekau’s injury and the possibility of his being killed, at least 70 people have died in a number of Boko Haram attacks in the north. On July 29, Boko Haram killed 15 people when a bomb went off in the major northern city of Kano. On August 11, militants killed 44 Muslims praying at a mosque, and on August 17, terrorists killed at least 11 people in Damboa in Borno state.
Socioeconomic considerations will play a major role in the future growth of the Boko Haram group. Boko Haram asserts itself as the defender of Islam and Muslims against the government, the US, and Christians. Add a deteriorating economic situation, widespread unemployment, and the persistent corruption of the political elite, and all this suggests no shortage of young people wanting to join Boko Haram.