The Defence authorities have confirmed the killing of the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, during one of the four encounters with insurgents in Kodunga, Borno State between September 12 and 17, 2014.
The Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, said during a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, that the corpse of the insurgents’ leader was identified by the people of Kodunga.
He said that Shekau whose real name was Mohammed Bashir had used other names like Abacha Abdullahi Geidam and Damasack.
Olukolade illustrated the Defence authorities claim with pictures of the bullet-ridden corpse of Shekau and a video of the battle in which he was killed.
Four days ago, the Cameroon Concord reported that the Cameroonian troops killed Shekau during a cross border aerial bombardment of his hideout in Nigeria on Saturday.
To prove the killing, the newspaper also published photographs of the bearded Shekau whom it said then usually appeared in videos as the leader of Boko Haram.
But Olukolade dismissed the claim that Shekau was killed by Cameroonian security forces within Nigeria.
“There was no raid whatsoever by Cameroon or any foreign forces in any part of Nigeria’s territory in pursuit of terrorists as claimed in some reports allegedly quoting Cameroon authorities,” he had said.
He had also claimed in a tweet on Wednesday last week that troops who repelled an attack by insurgents in Kodunga, captured a high ranking terrorist leader who was being treated in military medical facility.
On Tuesday, a journalist said to be a close ally of Boko Haram, Ahmad Salkida, said he had it on “authority” that Shekau was hale and hearty.
Writing on his Twitter handle, Salkida, who is on self-exile in the United Arab Emirates, claimed that Shekau was not the one in the pictures of a corpse that trended on Monday on social media after they were published by the Cameroon Concord.
“Mark my words: I have it on authority that Shekau is well and alive. The pictures going round are not that of the person who torments us with his group,” the journalist added.
The spokesperson for the Department of State Service had in May claimed that “the real Abubakar Shekau had been taken out.”
“Boko Haram has become a franchise; anybody can assume and lay claim to any name. What I know is that the original Abubakar Shekau is dead; the person claiming to be the national leader now is not the original Abubakar Shekau.
“If security sources tell you that somebody is dead, you don’t have to come out and doubt that,” Ogar said.
A former spokesman for the Joint Task Force in the North-East, Sagir Musa, had in a statement in August 2013, also said that Shekau might have been killed during a battle with troops in June last year.
But during the news conference on Wednesday, the defence spokesman said that many top commanders of Boko Haram were also killed in the four battles against the insurgents between September 12 and 17.
Olukolade added that the military was determined to eliminate anybody, who claims to be Shekau, a name which, he said had become a brand for the leader of the insurgents.
He said, “Nigerian troops have been conducting coordinated air and land operations in furtherance of efforts at containing the terrorists in the North -East. . Somehow, it became apparent that the terrorists, in continuation of their campaign of terror, were determined to take over communities around Maiduguri, which is their prime target.
“There was, therefore, the need to ensure that communities such as Kodunga were protected. It is noteworthy that the terrorists made no less than four attempts between September 12 and 17 to violate the security and enter Kodunga to perpetrate their atrocities. Air and land forces were subsequently deployed to handle the situation.
“The convoy of combat vehicles typical of terrorists’ mission that involved their top commanders was engaged by land and air forces. Several of the terrorists, including some of their commanders, lost their lives in the encounters which lasted an average of about five hours each. The troops captured some of the terrorists and their equipment.
“In the course of those encounters, one Mohammed Bashir, who has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group, died.
“Since the name Shekau has become a brand name for the terrorists’ leader, the Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title as well as all terrorists that seek to violate the freedom and territory of Nigeria.
“On restoring normalcy after the encounters, inhabitants of the community who were victims of their activities corroborated information on the identity of Bashir Mohammed alias Abubakar Shekau, alias Abacha Abdullahi Geidam alias Damasack, etc.
“Indeed, the recent devastation on the leadership of the insurgents is attributable to the renewed commitment to the mission of eradicating terrorism in our country.”
Olukolade also said that 135 insurgents surrendered their weapons to troops in Borno and Adamawa states on Tuesday evening.
He added that 88 of them surrendered at Mairiga/Buniyadi while another set of 45 were arrested around Mubi-Michika.
The Defence spokesman said the insurgents were undergoing interrogation in strict compliance with standard procedure.
“A total of 135 terrorists yesterday (Tuesday) evening surrendered along with their equipment to troops around the Biu Local Government Area. A group of 88 submitted themselves at Mairiga/Buni – Yadi while another group of 45 terrorists were taken in around Mubi – Michika. They are all being interrogated and processed in conformity with the dictates of standard best practices,” he added.
The Defence Headquarters had earlier said that 10 insurgents surrendered at Kawuri on Monday and another five at Konduga on Saturday.
This brings the total number of insurgents who have surrendered after the Kodunga battles to 150.
Investigation by The PUNCH on Wednesday revealed that troops were intensifying a house-to-house search in Madagali, Gulak, Michika, Bazza and other communities in Adamawa State for 70 fleeing insurgents.
It was gathered that six members of the sect were caught by troops at a refugee centre in Yola on Wednesday.
FG’ll celebrate B’Haram surrender not Shekau’s death – Maku
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said on Wednesday that the Federal Government was more interested in Boko Haram members laying down their arms than in the said death of Shekau.
Maku told journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja on Wednesday that the government was not interested in celebrating the death of the terrorist.
“The Federal Government would be happier if the Boko Haram leader and his group laid down their weapons and embraced peace,” he said.
The minister added, “Government has a responsibility to respect human rights unlike members of the Boko Haram sect who have thrown away all sympathy for human lives and are prepared to kill people just for killing’s sake.
“For us it is immaterial if the leader of the terrorist group is killed or not. We want them to drop their weapons and embrace peace. We want them to drop their weapons, stop killing their parents and innocent people and accept peace.”