Nigeria sect leader threatens retaliation
A leader of a radical Muslim sect that started a rampage that left 700 people dead in Nigeria has allegedly issued a videotaped threat calling for new violence as the one-year anniversary of their attack nears.
Imam Abubakar Shekau, a sect deputy whom police claimed to have killed during the July 2009 violence, told a Nigerian journalist that he had taken over as leader of the Boko Haram sect. Shekau told the reporter that he suffered a gunshot wound to the thigh during the fighting, but had been rescued by “fellow believers and protected by Allah”.
“I have the intention to retaliate,” Shekau said in the local Hausa language.
The Associated Press could not immediately verify the authenticity of the recording seen by Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper on Thursday. Borno state police commander Ibrahim Abdu dismissed the videotape, but said security officials would take precautions as the anniversary of last year’s violence draws near.
“Our officers and men are not taking chances,” Abdu said.
He added: “Different security measures had already been put in, so that there is no breach of peace in any part of the state.”
The newspaper said a reporter got the 25-minute interview with Shekau on April 19 after being blindfolded and driven to a hideout near Maiduguri, the site of much of the violence last year. The interview took place with Shekau seated before a stack of religious books and near a Kalashnikov rifle.
Asked where the sect obtains weapons, Shekau answered: “We get them from where we get them. God said we should get them, the holy prophet said we should get them.”
Boko Haram—which means “Western education is sacrilege” in Hausa—has campaigned for the implementation of strict Shariah law. Nigeria, a nation of 150-million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim-held north. A dozen states across Nigeria’s north already have Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.
Boko Haram sect members rioted and attacked police stations and private homes a year ago this month, sparking a violent police crackdown. Authorities have been accused of killing Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf while he was in custody. Police officials said he was killed while trying to escape, but army officials said he was alive when he was arrested.
The group largely went underground after Yusuf’s death. In early March, police arrested 17 officers suspected of taking part in filmed executions that later aired on international news channel al-Jazeera.
In recent months, rumours about the group rearming spread throughout northern Nigeria. Violence between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria has left hundreds dead since the start of the year. Those deaths sparked calls from an al-Qaeda-affiliated website for a Muslim uprising against Christians.
Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, a traditional leader in Borno state, told journalists on Wednesday that he also had information that Boko Haram followers planned an uprising. He asked locals to report any suspicious activity to police.
“We had reliable information that some of the sect’s members are planning to infiltrate some of the communities and mosques they had abandoned during last year’s sectarian crises,” he said.
Associated Press Writer Njadvara Musa in Maiduguri, Nigeria, contributed to this report.—Sapa-AP