A man who claimed to be leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram has appeared in a video posted on social media, rejecting statements by the country’s military that he had been seriously wounded in an air strike.
“You have been spreading in the social media that you injured or killed me,” the man purporting to be Abubakar Shekau, leader of the armed group, said in the 40-minute video released on YouTube on Sunday.
Last month, Nigeria’s air force said it had killed senior members of the group, adding that Shekau had been seriously wounded.
The Nigerian military has said it killed or critically wounded Shekau multiple times in recent years, often right before someone who claims to be him shoots a video denying it.
While they all sport Shekau’s distinctive beard, the grainy quality of the footage means it is not always possible to confirm if the person is the same as in previous videos.
“I will not get killed until my time comes,” said the man in the video addressed to “tyrants of Nigeria in particular and the west of Africa in general”.
Last month’s announcement by the air force came days after Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) – to whom Boko Haram pledged allegiance last year – announced the appointment of a new leader of the West African group in an apparent rejection of Shekau.
That appointment was later dismissed in a 10-minute audio clip on social media by Shekau, exposing divisions within the group that has plagued Nigeria and neighbours Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million in a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating a state adhering to strict Islamic laws.
It controlled a swathe of land in northeast Nigeria about the size of Belgium at the end of 2014 but was pushed out by Nigerian troops, aided by soldiers from neighbouring countries, early last year.