KADUNA, Nigeria — Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram was behind a coordinated attack on military targets this month, the group's leader has said in a video message lauding the group's successes against President Goodluck Jonathan's army.
Jonathan launched an all-out offensive against Boko Haram seven months ago in its stronghold in the northeast.
Initially this appeared to temper the violence as soldiers wrested back control of towns, cities and stretches of semi-desert in Africa's most populous nation and No. 1 oil producer.
But Boko Haram fighters have survived many assaults during the 4-1/2-year-old insurgency. After retreating this year to remoter areas, including the forested Gwoza hills near Cameroon, they have mounted deadly counter-attacks.
On Dec. 2, Boko Haram gunmen breached the city of Maiduguri for the first time in months, attacking the air force base and military barracks. Maiduguri is the capital of Borno state and the insurgency's starting place.
"We entered Maiduguri, burnt their barracks, where they use to drink beer and other ungodly things," Abubakar Shekau said in the 40-minute video, speaking in a mixture of Arabic and the Hausa and Kanuri languages used in northern Nigeria.
"We entered Maiduguri airport and burnt down the three military helicopters and two jets. We thank Allah," Shekau said, dressed in his usual military uniform and turban, surrounded by weapons and ammunition.
Shekau's finger-wagging videos, which are posted on the Internet or distributed to media, are the only way the sect communicates with the outside world, and efforts by Jonathan to start a dialogue have been unsuccessful.
Thousands have been killed since the sect launched its uprising against the state in 2009, turning itself from a religious movement opposed to Western culture into an armed militia with links to al-Qaida's West African wing.
Although its activities are hundreds of miles away from Nigeria's oil fields in the south, the group has bombed the capital Abuja at least three times, including a deadly attack on the United Nations' headquarters there in 2011.
"Nobody can stop us and live in peace, except if you accept Islam and live by sharia law," Shekau said.
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