Major General Chris Olukolade, director, defence information, has confirmed that Mohammed Bashir also known as Abubakar Shekau died on September 17, in a gun duel with the military in Konduga, Borno State
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Oct. 6, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
WHEN the news filtered in September 1, that Mohammed Bashir, also known as Abubakar Shekau, kingpin of the violent Boko Haram sect, has been killed Nigerians doubted the authenticity of the story. The hinged their doubt on the fact that there was no official confirmation from either the Defence headquarters or the National Information Centre which coordinates the information on the insurgency from the various security agencies. Besides this is not the first time such stories of the killing of Shekau have made the rounds bearing in mind controversy the first news that the sect leader was killed last year generated. However, seven days later, Chris Olukolade, a major general in charge of Defence Information, cleared all doubt when he gave a graphic account of how the Boko Haram leader met his Waterloo. He also indirectly, for the first time, officially confirmed the death of the real Abubakar Shekau.
Olukolade confirmed that actually one Mohammed Bashir, who has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as the leader of the Boko Haram sect, was killed in a counter-terrorism operation in the north-east. Olukolade, in a statement, said that Bashir was killed after members of the terrorist group made not less than four attempts between September 12 and 17 to violate the security strategy and enter Konduga, Borno State, to attack citizens in the area. “Air and land forces were subsequently deployed to handle the situation. The convoy of combat vehicles typical of terrorists’ mission that involves their top commanders was fiercely engaged by the land and air forces. Several of the terrorists including some of their commanders lost their lives in the encounters which lasted an average of about four hours each, leading to the death of the man claiming to be Mr. Shekau,” he said. The troops also captured some of the terrorists and their equipment and “after normalcy was restored, inhabitants of the community, who were victims of terrorists activities corroborated information on the identity of Mr. Bashir, alias Abubakar Shekau, alias Abacha Abdullahi Geidam and alias Damasack”, he said.
The recent devastation on the leadership of the insurgents was as a result of the renewed commitment to the mission of eradicating terrorism in Nigeria by the military which warned that “since the name Shekau had become a brand name for the terrorists’ leader, it would remain resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title as well as all terrorists that seek to violate the freedom and territory of Nigeria”.
The news of the demise of the Bashir is cheery given the onslaught Boko Haram unleashed on the country in recent times, killing and maiming people and displacing thousands from their homes in the North east, not forgetting the fate of more than 230 Chibok school girls who are being held hostage for about four months. There is also the fact that the Northern Elders forum gave Jonathan end of October deadline to end insurgency in the northeast and bring back the Chibok girls if he was to smell being supported for a second term by the North. The thinking now is that with the two Boko Haram kingpins and main commanders dead, added to the massive surrender of the insurgents, the days of insurgency in the country are numbered.
One can therefore understand why the defence headquarters applauded the gallantry of the Nigerian troops who had remained undaunted and professional in prosecuting the campaign against terror. Nigeria could not have achieved the feat alone. That must be the reason the Defence Headquarters also commended the keen interest exhibited by Nigeria’s neighbours and allies and reassured all allies in the war against terrorism of the Nigerian military’s resolve to maintain momentum in the efforts to decimate and defeat terrorists. It also urged all Nigerians to be alert, vigilant and cooperate with security forces in the war on terror campaign.
Apart from all Nigerians joining hands to get rid of Boko Haram insurgency, the role of foreign countries and donors in recent time have also boosted the performance of the Nigerian military. Countries like United States of America, Britain, France and others have been assisting Nigeria with a lot of intelligence on how to route the brigands. Also, government have spirited up funding for the military and providing the right equipment and gadgets best suited to fight the unconventional war the country has been faced with since 2010 when it all began with the killing of the Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of the sect in police custody.
This notwithstanding, the decapitating of the terrorist kingpin may have weakened the resolve of some of its members to continue with unwholesome activity. That explains why a total of 135 terrorists on Tuesday evening surrendered to the military around Biu Local Government Area in Borno State, along with their along with equipment. A group of 88 submitted themselves at Mairiga/Bun-Yadi while another group of 45 terrorists were taken in around Mubi-Michika with 56 being arrested. The military has assured that they are all being interrogated and processed in conformity with the dictates of standard best practices.
Prior to the confirmation made by the defence, the story on how Bashir died is reminiscent to the kind of ambush the insurgents have inflicted on the Nigerian military. It was gathered that the first attack on Konduga, took the hundreds of the insurgents unawares and the shoot-out with the military lasted for seven hours. Thereafter the military commanders strategically urged captured members to send a message to Shekau that they (insurgents) have killed all members of the Nigeria troops there. Before the captured insurgents were urged to make the contact and deliver the message, the military commanders had promised them that their co-operation would play a role in the level of punishment to be meted to them after the battle, hence they felt reassured. Also, the captured insurgents had disclosed that Shekau usually moved in a convoy of cars painted in military colours while he sits in a MOWAG Armoured tank with Boko Haram inscription on its front.
When a member of the captured insurgents contacted Shekau and spoke to him in Arabic, he assured him that the insurgents had taken over Konduga, thereby giving him the positive signal to proceed from Sambisa Forest. Also, some of his men that were captured were asked to sing the victory song in Kanuri language as they normally sing at the background while Shekau listened and believe that the message was authentic. He then proceed with his other commanders and followers to Konduga, heavily armed with anti-aircraft weapons, general purpose machine guns, several AK-47 rifles and other IEDS’. However, on entering Konduga town, they were marooned by strategically placed and heavily armed Nigerian soldiers. He tried to contact the messenger but couldn’t and he knew that something was amiss and the game was up and he gave in to the last battle of his life as he ordered his followers to open fire on the military who responded in kind. When he discovered that the fire power of the Nigerian Army who used both infantry and artillery weaponry was overwhelming, he jumped out of the MOWAG and made to escape. But Nigerian soldiers spotted him and gunned him down, inflicting serious injuries on his legs and other parts of his body and he bled to his death.
With the demise of another terror kingpin, the defence appeared to be getting its act together in disseminating information as regards its activities in containing the insurgency. The handling of information about the death of the first Shekau generated a lot of confusion making many Nigerians not to know whether to believe that the man is dead or alive. Then Sagir Musa, the Joint Task Force, JTF, spokesperson announced that the dreaded leader of the sect might have died of wounds he sustained during a battle with the special military forces in Sambisa Forest of Borno State on June 30, 2013. “Shekau was mortally wounded in the encounter and was sneaked into Amitchide, a border community in Cameroon for treatment, from which he never recovered. It is greatly believed that Shekau might have died between July 25 and August 3, 2013,” he said.
Many Nigerians expected the military hierarchy then to confirm the report. Even when President Goodluck Jonathan appeared in a media chat on television he failed to give a concrete confirmation on the case. That was why Frank Odita, former commissioner of police and a security analyst, captured the minds of the public when he told Realnews recently that the military spokesperson should speak on the matter not just the JTF. But this did not happen then raising confusion and uncertainty over the professionalism of the JTF in handling the report.
It also appears that the defence headquarters did not authorised the release of the statement. A source said that the defence headquarters was surprised that JTF released a statement announcing that Shekau might have been killed, which came out on the day a new division of the Nigerian Army took over from the JTF and was assigned the sole responsibility of continuing with the war against the insurgents. The source said that the top leadership of the Defence Headquarters was still considering how to verify the pending issue of Shekau’s killing when the statement announcing his death was released.
Then came a video footage released by the sect leader through Agence France Presse, AFP, on August 13, 2013, which also raised question over the authenticity of the report. In the recent video footage, Shekau dared Presidents Barack Obama of the United States, Francois Hollande of France and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister to come for him if they can.
However, all that is now in the past. With final death nail hammered on the head of “Shekau, the Second” one can only hope that another more violent one will not spring up and the days of the Chibok girls being held hostage will finally be over. Nigerians are counting on the military to up the ante and go a step further to free the girls. Then and only then will the military sit still and commend themselves the best it could. Until then, it is not yet Uhuru both for the military and for all Nigerians who will have to remain vigilant.