NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The leader of the Nigerian Islamic extremist group tugged on his winter hat and said with a sneer: “I will sell women.”
The man is Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigeria’s most feared terror group, Boko Haram. It is Shekau who threatened in a grainy video this week to sell nearly 300 teenage school girls abducted from a school in remote northeast Nigeria last month.
Even before the kidnapping, the U.S. government was offering up to a $7 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Shekau, whom the U.S. has labeled a specially designated global terrorist.
In lectures heard in scratchy recordings, Shekau says that holy war is the only way to bring change for Muslims in Nigeria as he urges his followers to carry out assassinations and bombings in the oil-rich nation of more than 160 million. The country has a predominantly Christian south and a Muslim north.
“He’s isolated, he’s increasingly extremist and he’s delusional enough to think he could bring down the Nigerian state,” said J. Peter Pham, the director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, who wrote a 2012 report called “Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat.”
Pham says the group has grown increasingly violent.
In a 2010 jihadi video, Shekau wore a headdress and was framed by an AK-47 assault rilfe and a stack of religious books. He proclaimed himself the head of Boko Haram and said: “Do not think jihad is over. Rather, jihad has just begun.”