World, Africa

Nigerian defense minister says Boko Haram chief alive

Military has previously claimed Abubakar Shekau dead

Nigerian defense minister says Boko Haram chief alive FILE PHOTO

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria 

The leader of Boko Haram is “on the run”, Defense Minister Mansur Dan-Ali said Tuesday in a break with the government’s previous claims that he was dead.

Dan-Ali said Abubakar Shekau could be in the Sambisa forest in Borno state, northeast Nigeria.

“The spiritual headquarters has been ransacked and vandalised and Shekau is on the run,” he said at a briefing in capital Abuja. “He may be hiding in one of the enclaves of Sambisa forest which we are dominating.

“I believe it’s just a matter of time. It took America about seven to 10 years to get Bin Laden, so we will get Shekau as soon as possible.”

The military has repeatedly claimed that Shekau was dead since he declared himself leader of Boko Haram in 2010 and that the name had been adopted by the group’s later leaders.

Nearly 15,000 civilians have been killed since Boko Haram launched its campaign in 1999 and 2.6 million have fled their homes since 2009 amid a humanitarian crisis.

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