Nigeria’s Buhari says Boko Haram leader ‘wounded’
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said today that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is “wounded”, in his first comments on military claims that the jihadi leader was injured in an attack.
Nigeria’s armed forces said on Tuesday that Shekau had been wounded in an air strike on Boko Haram’s forest stronghold, but released no further statement or evidence confirming his condition.
“We learnt that in an air strike by the Nigeria Air Force he was wounded,” Buhari said in a statement from Nairobi, where he is attending a development conference.
“Indeed their top hierarchy and lower cadre have a problem,” Buhari said. “They are not holding any territory and they have split to small groups attacking soft targets.”
Buhari said that Shekau had been “edged out” of the group, adding credence to claims that Islamic State (IS)-appointed Abu Musab al-Barnawi was now in charge of the insurgency.
Signs of a power struggle in the top echelons of the jihadi group appeared earlier this month when Shekau released a video denying he had been ousted.
Barnawi is believed to be the 22-year-old son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf and was announced as the group’s leader in August by IS.
Buhari made his remarks from Nairobi this weekend where he is attending the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, a summit designed to boost ties between Africa and Japan.
The president also said he “is prepared to talk to bona fide leaders of Boko Haram” to negotiate the release of 218 Chibok girls captured by the militants in 2014.
Boko Haram has ravaged northeast Nigeria in its quest to create a fundamentalist Islamic state, killing over 20,000 people and displacing 2.6 million from their region and homes.