KANO, Nigeria (AFP) – Nigeria’s army said Monday that the leader of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, may have died following a gunshot wound from a clash with soldiers.
Intelligence reports “available to the [military] revealed that Abubakar Shekau, the most dreaded and wanted Boko Haram terrorists leader, may have died,” a statement said. “It is greatly believed that Shekau might have died between July 25 to August 3 2013.”
According to the statement, Shekau, declared a “global terrorist” by the U.S. government, was shot on June 30 during a clash with troops at a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa forest in northeastern Nigeria.
It said he was then clandestinely taken over the border into Cameroon for treatment. The army statement was contradictory, first saying that Shekau “may have died” while at other points implying that he was indeed dead.
Shekau has been considered the leader of the main Islamist extremist faction of Boko Haram. The group’s insurgency has left at least 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
Nigeria’s military began a sweeping offensive in the country’s northeast in May aiming to end the insurgency. It has however often exaggerated claims related to the military effort targeting Boko Haram, and the report on Shekau has not been independently verified.