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|
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  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). 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. 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. He has been described as possessing a photographic memory.
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. His online videos frequently depict anti-American rhetoric, and he has made multiple threats to attack the U.S.
In June 2012 the United States Department of State designated Shekau as a terrorist and effectively froze his assets in the United States. Since June 2013, the Department has had a standing reward of US$7 million for information leading to Shekau's capture through its Rewards for Justice program. In addition, the Nigerian army has offered a ₦50 million reward (approximately US$300,000) for Shekau.
Shekau survived being shot in the leg during the 2009 attempt on his life by Nigerian security forces. After his near death, he increased his violent attacks. In one prominent incident, he took credit for the kidnapping of over 200 school girls in April 2014. Shekau also announced that the kidnapped girls have been converted to Islam. He has claimed to be waging a jihad against Christianity.
In August 2016, ISIL appointed Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the leader of the group in place of Shekau who refused to recognise Barnawi's authority. However Barnawi on 29 December 2016 was arrested by the Nigerian Department of State Security Services.
Reports of death and body doubles
Shekau was reported killed in 2009 but reappeared as the group leader less than a year later. 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. However, a video in September 2013 was released in which a man purported to be Shekau claimed he had not been killed. The Nigerian army also stated to have killed him during the 2014 Battle of Kodunga that lasted from September 12 to 14th. The Cameroonian military posted a photo and also claimed that their forces killed Shekau in September 2014. 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." 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.
Local media have suggested that the man killed by Cameroon was a body double used for security reasons. 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.
President of Chad Idriss Déby claimed in mid-August 2015 that Shekau had been replaced by Mahamat Daoud without exactly specifying his fate. 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.
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. 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.
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. This video would seem to be further evidence of Shekau's continued survival.
- Islamist insurgency in Nigeria
- Sharia in Nigeria
- Slavery in 21st-century Islamism
- Salafi jihadism
- Salafi movement
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