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You can’t find me – Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau tells US Gov’t following $7m bounty placed on his head

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Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau has reacted to the $7m reward the US Department of State recently announced for anyone with credible information that will lead to his arrest. The Department of State made the announcement on March 4th.

Boko Haram’s leader is said to be a fearless loner, a complex, paradoxical man – part-theologian, part-gangster.

Since he took over, Boko Haram has become more radical and carried out more killings.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation about him was the video clip of him laughing as he admitted the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April 2014, promising to sell them.

“I abducted your girls,” he said. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off.”

Fondly called imam or leader by his followers, Abubakar Muhammad Shekau was born in Shekau village in Nigeria’s north-eastern state of Yobe.

Some say he is in his late 30s, others believe he is in his mid-40s – the uncertainty adds to the myths surrounding him.

The US government has offered a reward of up to $7m (£4.6m) for information about his location.

Radical theology student

Shekau was once said to have been killed by security forces in 2009 – only for him to reappear in videos posted on the internet less than a year later as Boko Haram’s new leader.

Similar subsequent claims of his death also turned out to be false.

The group’s founder, Muhammad Yusuf, died in police custody in July 2009, and hundreds of others were killed during that massive crackdown – which many blame for making the group even more violent.

Shekau has not been seen in public since.

Instead, still images and video clips of him are released from time to time, mostly online, by the group’s faceless “public enlightenment department”.

When Muhammad Yusuf was killed, Shekau is said to have married one of his four wives and adopted their children – perhaps, say sources who do not want to be named, to preserve Boko Haram’s cohesion or “purity”.

The group has a highly decentralised structure – the unifying force appears to be ideology, though many believe that they are now more interested in vengeance than in ideology.

Shekau does not communicate directly with the group’s foot soldiers – he is said to wield his power through a few select cell leaders, but even then contact is minimal.

“A lot of those calling themselves leaders in the group do not even have contact with him,” Mr Salkida says.

Shekau has neither the charismatic streak nor the oratorical skills of his predecessor – but he has an intense ideological commitment and ruthlessness, say people who study the group.

“He is the leader of the more militant wing of the group as testified by his aping of Osama Bin Laden in his video appearances,” says Abubakar Mu’azu from the University of Maiduguri.

Shekau issued a chilling message in one of those appearances – which provides a major insight into what his leadership of the group will bring.

“I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill – the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams,” he said in the video clip released just after Boko Haram had carried out one of its deadliest attacks, in January 2012, killing more than 180 people in Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city.

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