Abubakar Shekau

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Abubakar Shekau
Abubakar Shekau, Rewards for Justice.jpg
Still image of Shekau from an undated video
Born between 1965 and 1975
Shekau, Yobe State, Nigeria
Other names Darul Tawheed
Known for Leader of Boko Haram
Military career
Allegiance Boko Haram
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Years of service 2002–present
Battles/wars Boko Haram insurgency

Abubakar Shekau, also known by the alias Darul Akeem wa Zamunda Tawheed, or Darul Tawheed ("the abode of monotheism") (Arabic: دار التوحيد‎), thought to be born between 1965 and 1975 [2] is a Kanuri man known as the leader of Boko Haram, a Nigerian militant group that has declared loyalty to the Islamist militant group Islamic State of Iraq Syria (ISIS).[3][4] He served as deputy leader to the group's founder, Mohammed Yusuf, until Yusuf was executed in 2009. Nigerian authorities believed that Shekau was killed in 2009 during clashes between security forces and Boko Haram until July 2010, when Shekau appeared in a video claiming leadership of the group.[4] He has subsequently been reported dead with regularity, and is thought to use body doubles. In March 2015, Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Shekau is a Salafi.[1] He has been described as possessing a photographic memory.[5]


Shekau is an ethnic Kanuri, and also speaks Hausa, Fulani, Arabic, and English.[6] He claims to be an intellectual and theologian who studied Islam "under a traditional cleric".[7][8]

In videos Shekau posted online, he boasted often about his invincibility; mocked various armies; and stated that he "cannot be stopped" and "cannot die except by the will of Allah". He has also boasted of being in possession of armoured tanks and other combat vehicles.[9] His online videos frequently depict anti-American rhetoric, and he has made multiple threats to attack the U.S.[10]

In June 2012 the United States Department of State designated Shekau as a terrorist and effectively froze his assets in the United States.[11] Since June 2013,[12] the Department has had a standing reward of US$7 million for information leading to Shekau's capture through its Rewards for Justice program.[13] In addition, the Nigerian army has offered a 50 million reward (approximately US$300,000) for Shekau.[14]

Shekau survived being shot in the leg during the 2009 attempt on his life by Nigerian security forces.[4] After his near death, he increased his violent attacks.[8] In one prominent incident, he took credit for the kidnapping of over 200 school girls in April 2014.[8] Shekau also announced that the kidnapped girls have been converted to Islam.[15] He has claimed to be waging a jihad against Christianity.[16]

In August 2016, ISIL appointed Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the leader of the group in place of Shekau[17] who refused to recognise Barnawi's authority.[18] However Barnawi on 29 December 2016 was arrested by the Nigerian Department of State Security Services.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Shekau was born in Nigeria, it has been claimed in Shekau village in Yobe State of Nigeria.[citation needed] His age is unclear. He is married to one of Muhammad Yusuf's four wives.[7]

His nickname is “Darul Tawheed”, which translates as "specialist in tawheed", the Islamic concept of oneness of Allah.[7]

Reports of death and body doubles[edit]

Shekau was reported killed in 2009 but reappeared as the group leader less than a year later.[20] The Nigerian army in mid-August 2013 stated that he was fatally wounded when soldiers raided a base of Boko Haram in Sambisa forest and had died between 25 July and 3 August.[21] However, a video in September 2013 was released in which a man purported to be Shekau claimed he had not been killed.[22] The Nigerian army also stated to have killed him during the 2014 Battle of Kodunga that lasted from September 12 to 14th.[23] The Cameroonian military posted a photo[24] and also claimed that their forces killed Shekau in September 2014.[25][26][27] In response to these reports, security analyst Ryan Cummings commented, "Is this his fourth or fifth death? He dies more often than an iPhone battery."[24] In early October 2014, a video was obtained by AFP news agency that showed Shekau alive, in which he mocked the Nigerian military's allegations that he had been killed.[28][29]

Local media have suggested that the man killed by Cameroon was a body double used for security reasons.[24][30] According to the National Post, Nigerian government officials say that the original Shekau is long dead, but impostors keep popping up to perpetuate the myth that Shekau is unbeatable. His appearance and name are now a “brand name for the terrorists. … The Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title.” There are inconsistencies between videos purportedly made by Shekau, such as his speaking in different cadences and with varying mannerisms. “In some cases he appears much heavier or much darker in skin color, and the posturing is very different between each man,” according to TRAC.[31]

President of Chad Idriss Déby claimed in mid-August 2015 that Shekau had been replaced by Mahamat Daoud without exactly specifying his fate.[32] An audio message attributed to Shekau was released a few days later, in which he purportedly stated that he had neither been killed nor ousted as chief of the group.[33]

Shekau was reported to have been "fatally wounded" during an airstrike in Taye village on 19 August 2016 by Nigerian Air Force which also killed some senior leaders of Boko Haram.[34][35] On 25 September, a video of man purported to be Shekau was released on YouTube, in which he claimed that he was alive and in good health.[36]

On 27 June 2017, Shekau released a video in which he claimed responsibility for the abduction of Nigerian policewomen and criticized the Nigerian government for claiming that Boko Haram had been defeated.[37] This video would seem to be further evidence of Shekau's continued survival.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Collective Mobilisations in Africa / Mobilisations collectives en Afrique: Enough is Enough! / Ça suffit!. BRILL. 2015-06-01. p. 338. ISBN 9789004300002. 
  2. ^ "Rewards for Justice - Wanted". www.rewardsforjustice.net. Retrieved 2016-01-06. 
  3. ^ Brock, Joe (2012-01-12). "Nigeria sect leader defends killings in video". Reuters Africa. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  4. ^ a b c Jacinto, Leela (2012-01-13). "The Boko Haram terror chief who came back from the dead". France 24. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  5. ^ "Nigeria's Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in profile". BBC News. 9 May 2014. 
  6. ^ BBC: "Nigeria's Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in profile" 9 May 2014
  7. ^ a b c "Profile of Nigeria's Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau". BBC News. 22 June 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c Terrence McCoy (May 6, 2014). "The man behind the Nigerian girls' kidnappings and his death-defying mystique". Washington Post. 
  9. ^ "Boko Haram leader, believed dead, appears in new video". UPI. Sep 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ Windrem, Robert (2014-05-17). "Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau: the Man Who Would Be Africa's Bin Laden". NBC News. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  11. ^ "Boko Haram leaders are designated as terrorists by US". BBC News. June 22, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Rewards for Justice - First Reward Offers for Terrorists in West Africa". U.S. Department of State. June 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Rewards for Justice profile". Rewardsforjustice.net. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  14. ^ "Nigeria army offers $1.8 mln reward for Boko Haram leaders". Reuters. November 24, 2012. 
  15. ^ Boko Haram and the Future of Nigeria, by Dr. Jacques Neheriah Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  16. ^ "Boko Haram Leader Pledges War Against Christians; Scoffs at Gays Saying Even Animals Know Better". Christianpost.com. 2014-05-16. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  17. ^ "Boko Haram in Nigeria: Abu Musab al-Barnawi named as new leader". BBC News. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  18. ^ "Boko Haram's Shekau vows to fight IS group rival for leadership". France 24. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  19. ^ "DSS confirms arrest of AbuMusab al-Barnawi, ISIS-recognised Boko Haram leader". Naij. 29 December 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  20. ^ "Nigeria's Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in profile". BBC News. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  21. ^ "Abubakar Shekau of Nigeria's Boko Haram 'may be dead'". BBC News. 19 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  22. ^ "Abubakar Shekau: Boko Haram chief 'shown alive' in video". BBC News. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  23. ^ "Nigerian Army confirms death of fake Abubakar Shekau". vanguardngr.com. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  24. ^ a b c "Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau Reported Killed Again — This Time by Cameroon's Army". VICE News. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  25. ^ "L'armée camerounaise aurait tué le leader de Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau". African Manager. 21 September 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "Boko Haram fighters 'surrender' as alleged chief killed". BBC News. 24 September 2014. Archived from the original on 25 September 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "Military kills Abubakar Shekau 'again'". The Punch. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  28. ^ "Boko Haram leader dismisses claims of his death in new video". Yahoo News. 2 October 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  29. ^ "Boko Haram video shows leader alive". BBC News. 2 October 2014. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  30. ^ "Has Cameroon's army killed Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau? - Daily Mail Online". Mail Online. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  31. ^ Terrence McCoy, Washington Post (25 September 2014). "The myth of the unkillable Abubakar Shekau: Is the feared Boko Haram leader dead, or was it a double?". National Post. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  32. ^ "Nigeria's Boko Haram militants 'have new leader'". BBC. 12 August 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  33. ^ Tony Bakate (16 August 2015). "I'm alive, says Shekau in a new audio message". The Guardian Nigeria. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  34. ^ "Nigerian air force says kills top Boko Haram militants, leader believed wounded". Reuters. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  35. ^ Abdulkareem Haruna (23 August 2016). "Nigerian military says Boko Haram leader, Shekau, wounded in deadly air strike". Premium Times. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  36. ^ "Man Claiming to be Boko Haram's Abubakar Shekau Surfaces in Video". Voice of America. 25 August 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  37. ^ "boko-haram-leader-releases-video-revealing-abduction-of-policewomen2". UNCOVA. 27 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 

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