BBC profiles Abubakar Shekau: The man behind Boko Haram

by Tolu Orekoya

Understanding the brains behind Nigeria’s most successful terrorist group is key to understanding the inner workings of Boko Haram.

The BBC paints Abubakar Shekau, the current leader of Boko Haram who took the helms of leadership of the dreaded sect after its founder Muhammad Yusuf was killed, as an intense, intellectual man, who so deeply believes in the cause that he married one of Yusuf’s widows and adopted her children in order to maintain the group’s “purity”.

From the BBC:

The leader of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is said to be a fearless loner, a complex, paradoxical man – part intellectual, part gangster. 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 34 or 35, others that he may be 43 – the uncertainty adds to the myths surrounding Nigeria’s most wanted man.

It is a chilling account of the man, who once said “I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill – the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams,” after a bombing in Kano.

Mr Shekau is said to have met his predecessor in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State and now Boko Haram’s headquarters, through a mutual friend, Mamman Nur. Nigeria’s authorities say Mr Nur masterminded the August 2011 bombing of the UN office complex in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. All three were theology students – and Mr Shekau was seen as the quietest and perhaps the most radical of them.

“He hardly talks, he is fearless,” says Ahmed Salkida, a journalist with such good access to Boko Haram that, at one stage, he was suspected of being a member. He says he only escaped summary execution by Maiduguri police after an intelligence officer intervened. “He is one of those who believes that you can sacrifice anything for your belief,” Mr Salkida says. Mr Shekau is fluent in his native Kanuri, Hausa and Arabic languages – he does not speak English.

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