Abubakar Shekau: US Searching for Ruthless Boko Haram Leader

Image: Abubakar Shekau: US Searching for Ruthless Boko Haram Leader 2013 file photo showing a poster displayed along the road with photograph of Imam Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Thursday, 08 May 2014 02:15 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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Abubakar Shekau is the newest name to be associated with terrorism after the al-Qaida-linked militia he leads, Boko Haram, made headlines in mid-April by kidnapping nearly 300 schoolgirls in his home country of Nigeria.

Shekau recently released a video claiming responsibility for the kidnappings and laughed as he described how he would, "Sell them in the market, by Allah . . . Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell," according to CNN.

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This week, President Barack Obama sent a team of strategists to help in the effort to locate Shekau and the girls — an additional commitment to the $7 million reward the U.S. had previously offered to information leading to his arrest before the kidnappings took place.

"In the short term our goal is obviously is to help the international community, and the Nigerian government, as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies," Obama said.

The tragic incident and subsequent international outrage has put the global spotlight on war-torn Nigeria just as it was set to host the World Economic Forum for Africa for the first time May 7-9. With that spotlight comes increased analysis of Shekau, as well as the Boko Haram group, which means "Western education is sinful."

The Associated Press reported that Nigeria has long experienced tensions between its Muslim north — where Shekau operates — and the Christian south. A man named Mohammed Yusuf originally founded Boko Haram and pushed for Muslim separatism from the state of Nigeria. Yusuf was killed in 2009 by the Nigerian government, and Shekau emerged in 2010 as its new leader.

The first lethal operation against the West came in 2011, when a car bomb targeting the U.N. in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, killed roughly two dozen people.

Nigerian authorities have long sought to capture or kill Shekau, but he has evaded them consistently, even reemerging several times after the Nigerian government was sure they had killed him.

Under his leadership, it's estimated his group has killed over 3,000 government workers, police officers, journalists, villagers, students, and churchgoers.

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