Nigeria Probing Reports of Boko Haram Leader’s Death

Nigerian authorities said they are probing reports that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Islamist-militant group Boko Haram group that’s been wreaking havoc in the north of the country, has been killed.

ThisDay newspaper on Thursday cited a police intelligence report that quoted top commanders of Islamic State in West Africa Province, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, as saying Shekau blew himself up when he realized he was about to be captured by its fighters. The Associated Press reported that Shekau was injured, but had escaped.

“We are investigating,” Brigadier-General Mohammed Yerima, the Nigerian army’s spokesman, said by phone. He declined to comment further.

Several previous media reports saying Shekau had died proved to be inaccurate.

ISWAP, which is affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria, has been the main driving force behind attacks in recent years that targeted government security agencies in the northeast and were launched from its main base in the Lake Chad basin.

Shekau’s death, if confirmed, could further assert the group’s dominance in Boko Haram’s internal battles and help it gain control over additional territory in the Sambisa Forest in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state. That would give it greater scope to stage attacks and avoid Nigerian military air strikes, potentially signaling an intensification of Boko Haram’s decade-long insurgency.

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