Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 14:37 GMT

Abu Shekau Issues Video Message to Nigerian President

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Publication Date 31 January 2012
Citation / Document Symbol Volume: 3 Issue: 1
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, Abu Shekau Issues Video Message to Nigerian President, 31 January 2012, Volume: 3 Issue: 1, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f2a76fe2.html [accessed 21 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Abu Shekau, the leader of the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnati Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, issued a message on YouTube on January 11, 2012 addressed "to the President of Nigeria, Jonathan, who has come out to say negative things about us…." Wearing a red and white turban, a camouflage bullet-proof vest, and with two Kalashnikov rifles behind him, Shekau justified Boko Haram's attacks against Christians "who slaughtered us and took our wives and humiliated us," declared that democracy and the Constitution were "paganism," and promised "fellow Muslims" that Boko Haram's "objectives are not to kill or humiliate or steal (Vanguard, January 11)."

Eight days later, on January 20, 2012, Boko Haram carried out a series of bombings mostly on police stations in Kano killing more than 175 people. In addition to his stated reasons for the attack—to punish the police for arresting Boko Haram members in Nigeria's most respected Islamic city—Shekau may have had personal motivations. On December 15, 2011 Nigerian State Security Forces reportedly arrested Shekau's wife with his seven-month old son in Kano (Nairaland, December 15, 2011). In an e-mail sent from Shekau to journalists in Kano on December 18, 2011 he said that, "Recently, security agencies launched a fresh onslaught on some of our members in Kano city in which even women and children were not spared (Vanguard, December 18, 2011)."

Before Shekau gave the orders for the Kano attacks, he may have fled to Ngaoundere, Cameroon; possibly with the help of northern government officials who have ongoing contacts with Boko Haram (Nigerian Voice, January 24). Shekau issued another YouTube statement from his hideout on January 27 in which for the first time since July 2011 he referenced America. He said, "From former President George Bush to Obama, the Americans have always been fighting and destroying Islam…. They have labeled us as terrorists and they are paying for it (Reuters [Kano], January 28)."

In 2012, Boko Haram may try to expand its operations to Western embassies and personnel, businesses, and hotels. However, Shekau views the Nigerian and American governments both as legitimate "non-Muslim" targets and attacks on "soft" targets, such as local police stations and churches, may have a higher success rate and serve the same ends for him.

Copyright notice: © 2010 The Jamestown Foundation

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