Who is Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau?

Abubakar Shekau, is the present Leader of Nigerian Islamist Group Boko Haram and is held responsible for the mass kidnapping of 300 School Girls in Nigeria last month. He runs a parallel administration in the forests of northern Nigeria, considered the stronghold of Boko Haram.

Shekau was born in Shekau village in Nigeria’s north-eastern state of Yobe. He is reported to be around 35 years old though many believe him to be older. He is married to one of the wives of Boko Haram’s previous leader and his predecessor Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in 2009.

Shekau claims to be an intellectual and theologian who studied Islam “under a traditional cleric.” There is no evidence for these claims, and substantial evidence to the contrary. Described as intense, quiet, and bookish, he prefers a modest lifestyle. “He hardly talks, he is fearless,” according to Ahmed Salkida, a journalist with access to Boko Haram.

Shekau has an eidetic memory and is well-versed in theology, having studied it. His nickname is “Darul Tawheed”, which translates as a specialist in Tawheed, the Islamic concept of oneness with Allah. He is fluent in Hausa and Arabic languages as well as his native Kanuri language.

Earlier he was the Deputy Leader of Boko Haram. In an Ambush with Nigerian Security foreces in 2009 he was reportedly killed. However, a year later he released one video in which he claimed to have survived the attack despite being severely wounded. Since then he assumed the leadership of the group and has intensified the attacks.

In videos Shekau posts online, he often boasts about his invincibility, mocks various armies and states that he “cannot be stopped” and “cannot die except by the will of Allah”. He has also boasted about being in possession of armoured tanks and other combat vehicles. He frequently speaks about the Quran in his online videos.

“I abducted your girls,” he said. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off.” he said in a video released after the kidnapping of 300 Schools Girls.

Shekau is considered to be Boko Haram’s spiritual leader and often delivers sermons to his followers. However, Intellectuals in Nigeria do not recognize any Spiritual Leadership associated with him.

In June 2012 the United States Department of State designated Shekau as a terrorist and effectively froze any of his assets in the United States.

Since June 2013, the U.S. State Department has a standing reward of US$7 million for information leading to Shekau’s capture through its Rewards for Justice program. The Nigerian army has additionally offered a ?50 million reward (approximately US$300,000) for Shekau.

In November 2013, Boko Haram was categorized as a Terrorist Organization by United States Government.

(With Inputs from BBC and Wikipedia)