by Ibrahim Faruk
Imam Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram Islamic sect, was wounded during a gun battle with security men recently, according to reports.
Security agencies and operatives in Abuja traced his whereabouts of Shekau, who succeeded late Mohammed Yusuf as leader of the sect to Mali, where he escaped to after sustaining injuries during a gun duel with soldiers of the Joint Task Force, JTF, a.k.a Operation Restore Order.
Sources also link the Federal Government approval of the deployment of 1,200 soldiers to Mali apparently because of the need to apprehend the wounded Boko Haram leader.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika who addressed officers and soldiers of the Nigerian army shortly before they were airlifted to Mali Thursday in Kaduna, asked them to be extra vigilant as there are indications that some terrorists had sneaked into the country with the aim of causing havoc. Ihejirika however, pointed out that the Nigerian Army was not resting on its oars as the war against terror was being won.
Shekau, who has a N50million ransom on his head from the Federal
Government, was ferried to Mali through one of the porous routes in the vast Nigerian border with Customs and Immigration authorities unable to prevent his crossing.
Shekau was said to have been shot at a checkpoint in Borno state, when he reportedly attempted to deceive operatives of the JTF by posing as a nomadic Fulani who was returning from a journey. As the JTF approached the vehicle carrying him and members of his sect, an exchange of gunfire ensued as the sect members started firing at the soldiers who equally returned fire for fire. It was during the crossfire, he and two other sect members with him escaped with gunshot wounds while two members of the sect were killed on the spot. Some AK 47 rifles and rounds of ammunition were also recovered from the vehicle.
Weapons, including IEDS recovered from Boko Haram members have been traced to the weaponry used during the Libyan uprising against late Libyan leader, Gaddafi. Nigerian security agencies believe that the more sophisticated and deadly weaponry had gotten to the hands of sect members but they are unable to operate them because they are not trained for it.
The discovery of Shekau’s hideout and the training base for Boko Haram sect members to unleash terror on Nigerians is a further justification of the action of the federal government to deploy 1,200 troops as well as Airforce fighter and transport aircraft to Mali to help flush out the Tuareg militants and their sponsors.
Security has also been beefed up along the Nigerian Army First Mechanized Division and the Third Armoured Division’s areas of responsibilities with the deployment of soldiers at the borders to complement the work of other security agencies following the escalation of the Mali crisis with a view to checkmating infiltrations into the country by terrorists.
In December 2012, a total sum of N290 million ransom was approved for anyone who could assist in locating Imam Abubakar Shekau
and 18 other leaders of Boko Haram.
A release by the JTF listed the wanted Boko Haram leaders to include five members of the Shurra (the highest decision-making body of the sect) Committee and 19 of their commanders. The five members of the Shurra Committee of the sect, including Imam Abubakar Shekau whose ransom was N50 million, and Habibu Yusuf (a.k.a Asalafi), Khalid Albarnawai, Momodu Bama and Mohammed Zangina. Apart from Imam Shekau whose ransom was put at N50 million, the other Shurra members’ ransom was put at N25million each.
A ransom of N10 million each was put on the Boko Haram Commanders including, Abu Saad, Abba Kaka, Abdulmalik Bama, Umar Fulata, Alhaji Mustapha, (Massa) Ibrahim and Abubakar Suleiman-Habu a.k.a Khalid. Other commanders also included Hassan Jazair, Ali Jalingo, Alhaji Musa Modu, Bashir Aketa, Abba Goroma, Ibrahim Bashir, Abubakar Zakariya and Tukur Ahmed Mohammed.
The JTF statement on the N290 million ransom, reads in part; “They are wanted in connection with terrorist activities, particularly in the North East zone of Nigeria that led to the killings, bombings and assassination of some civilians, religious leaders, traditional rulers, businessmen, politicians, civil servants and security personnel, among others. They are also wanted for arson and destruction of properties worth millions of naira. Therefore, anyone with information that will lead to the arrest of any of the listed terrorists or more will have the rewards (placed on them) as stated.’