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Is Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau dead?

Reportedly killed: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. [Courtesy]

The Nigerian Army is investigating reports that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has died or is seriously wounded, reports the BBC.

Shekau, who has waged an insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria since 2009, came under fire on Wednesday during a clash with a rival extremist faction, the Islamic State in West African Province (Iswap).

According to Nigeria’s intelligence services, Iswap fighters – led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of Muhammad Yusuf, a radical cleric and founder of Boko Haram who was killed by police in 2009 – besieged Boko Haram positions in Sambisa Forest, north-east Nigeria, in dozens of pickup trucks. 

“To avoid capture, Shekau shot himself in the chest and the bullet pierced his shoulder. He was badly injured,” an official is quoted as having told The Guardian.

This is not the first time Shekau has been reported killed or injured.

In 2016, he resurfaced in a video rejecting assertions by the Nigerian army that he had been seriously wounded.

“You have been spreading in the social media that you injured or killed me. Oh tyrants, I’m in a happy state, in good health and in safety,” said the extremist leader on September 25.

In 2015, Shekau told off Idriss Déby after the late Chad President declared that the Boko Haram leader had been replaced after the army succeeded in ‘decapitating’ the Islamist insurgency in Lake Chad Basin. Deby was killed by Chadian rebels when commanding troops on the battlefront on April 19, 2021.

In a video, Shekau said he was still alive and in charge of the group.

In 2014, the Cameroonian military reported that Shekau was killed during a Boko Haram attempt to capture Kodunga, a small village north of Maiduguri, Borno state, northeastern Nigeria. The Cameroonian forces released a photo on social media, allegedly of Shekau's body, as proof.

Claims Shakau disputed in a video.

In 2013, the Nigerian military claimed that the jihadist was killed at the group’s hideout in Sambisa Forest - the new stronghold for Iswap.