Dead or alive? Shekau status unlikely to alter Nigeria’s instability

By June 15, 2021
Boko Haram mocks ceasefire.

Nigeria (MNN) — Demonstrators in Nigeria want President Buhari out after admitting his failure to control the ongoing insurgency. Police used teargas to break up protests in two major cities on Saturday.

Rebel fighters and Fulani herdsmen are behind Nigeria’s bloodshed, along with larger groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State. See our full Nigeria coverage here.

“Nigeria continues to be at the forefront. [According to a recent report,] 1,400 Nigerian Christians have been murdered and 2,000 abducted just in the last four months,” Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says.

“Muslims also have been killed. I was talking to somebody in Nigeria recently, and he [emphasizes] ‘hey, it’s not just Christians getting killed here. It’s also Muslims who may be more moderate.’”

Abubakar Shekau, former leader of Boko Haram.
(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

This targeting reportedly pitted one jihadist group against another. Fighters from the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) allegedly cornered Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, in combat last month, resulting in Shekau’s death by suicide.

“Boko Haram [is] responsible for the death of thousands and thousands of people. Abubakar Shekau is a notoriously destructive, violent man,” Musselman says.

Authorities have not yet found a body, but a recent audio recording from ISWAP again claims Shekau’s death. On May 21, two reporters from The Wall Street Journal affirmed the same:

His death, which Nigeria’s military has erroneously reported at least three times before, was confirmed by five Nigerian officials who detailed how he detonated a suicide vest during a confrontation with rival insurgents to avoid being taken alive.

Even if these rumors are true, experts say Nigeria’s instability is unlikely to change.  “[If] he is dead, what will that mean for the Boko Haram? I think it’s going to cause some problems within that group. Many now will feel free to join some of the other factions, like the Islamic State West Africa Province,” Musselman adds.

“It may weaken Boko Haram. Unfortunately, it will not weaken the attacks that are coming against the Church.”

Ask God to protect believers in Nigeria and throughout the region. Help meet the tangible needs of persecuted Christians through VOM Canada.

“Countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, are also now getting caught in this terrorism, and it is growing,” Musselman says.

“Islamic groups have been pushed back in countries like Iraq, but there are pockets [of terrorist activity] and some of these areas are getting stronger.”




Header image is a screenshot depicting Abubakar Shekau in a 2014 video after Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of Chibok schoolgirls.