Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

May 8, 2014

Abduction vaults Boko Haram leader into headlines

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Tugging on his winter hat, the Islamic militant leader declared with a sneer: "I will sell women."

His name is Abubakar Shekau, commander of Nigeria's most feared terror group, Boko Haram. His threat to sell nearly 300 teenage school girls abducted from a school in remote northeast Nigeria came in a grainy video released this week.

The warning has vaulted the wanted terror leader into global headlines.

Even before the April 15 kidnapping, the U.S. government was offering up to a $7 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Shekau, whom the U.S. has labeled a specially designated global terrorist.

"He's isolated, he's increasingly extremist and he's delusional enough to think he could bring down the Nigerian state," said J. Peter Pham, the director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, who wrote a 2012 report called "Boko Haram's Evolving Threat."

In lectures heard in scratchy recordings, Shekau says that holy war is the only way to bring change for Muslims in Nigeria as he urges his followers to carry out assassinations and bombings in the oil-rich nation of more than 160 million. The country has a predominantly Christian south and a Muslim north.

Pham says the group has grown increasingly violent.

Boko Haram's original leader, Mohammed Yusuf, tried to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria by non-violent means. After Yusuf's 2009 death, Shekau took the opposite approach.

In his breakout jihadi video, Shekau wore a headdress and was framed by an AK-47 assault rifle and a stack of religious books. He proclaimed himself the head of Boko Haram and said: "Do not think jihad is over. Rather, jihad has just begun."

Shekau surfaced in 2010, the same year al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb took in members of Boko Haram who had traveled to southern Somalia to train in militant camps run by the terror group al-Shabab. Violent jihad is seen as a legitimate expression of Islam in Shekau's militant Salafist world view.

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