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article imageNigeria: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, shot, deposed

By JohnThomas Didymus     Aug 3, 2013 in World
Abuja - The "spiritual leader" of Boko Haram, Iman Liman Ibrahim, has revealed that Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militant Islamic sect, was shot and deposed before the June 26 announcement of ceasefire by the group.
Liman claims that the decision to depose Shekau was part of efforts to ensure successful conclusion of a peace deal with the government and end a conflict that has witnessed needless bloodshed.
A new leader, Abu Zamira Mohammad, was reportedly appointed.
The Nigerian Vanguard reports that moves to initiate "back-channel dialogue" with the Nigerian government followed the deposition of Abubakar Shekau by a group of his peers.
The group appointed five representatives to lead peace negotiations with the government: Abu Liman Ibrahim, Abu Zamira Mohammed, Abu Adam Maisandari, Kassim Imam Biu and Mallam Modu Damaturu.
It also appointed a new spokesman, Abubakar Babasani Ibn Yusuf, who assured government officials that all senior Boko Haram commanders had consented to the ceasefire.
A report published on August 1 in The Huffington Post, by Stephen Davis and Phillip van Niekerk, African conflict resolution consultants, quoted Iman Abu Liman Ibrahim, saying there had been a change in leadership of the militant group before the ceasefire was announced.
Davis and Niekert wrote: “It has now come to light that Boko Haram’s leadership sent representatives to the capital Abuja on June 25, 2013 where they revealed to the government that Shekau was no longer their leader.”
The announcement last month by the Nigerian government that it had reached an "understanding for ceasefire" with members of Jama’atu Ahlul Sunnah Lih Da’awa Wal Jihad (JAS) better known as Boko Haram, was greeted with widespread skepticism.
Following the revelation that Shekau had been deposed, Boko Haram has restated its commitment to the ceasefire and peace negotiations, recalling their earlier condemnation of the Yobe massacre in which at least 29 school children and a teacher were murdered, according to Digital Journal.
Denouncing the massacre, Boko Haram accused "some politicians" of committing crimes and blaming them on Boko Haram. The group also blamed the government for the recent Kano bomb blast, claiming that the government's slow response to peace overtures was to blame. According to the Vanguard Nigeria, the group said it is still expecting a formal government response to its declaration of a ceasefire.
The recent statements from Boko Haram suggest a conflict of "doves" and "hawks" within the group. It also suggests that the "hawks" were responsible for the recent Kano bomb attack. But some analysts say the attack was carried out to force the government to negotiate.
Media reports quote Iman Liman Ibrahim, explaining the decision to depose Shekau. Alluding to the Yobe massacre in which school children were murdered in cold-blood, Liman said Shekau's action violated Islamic precepts. He reportedly said: “It was harsh, harsh, harsh. The beheadings, the killings, the recent death of students... this is not the way of the Holy Qu’ran. We could tolerate it no longer."
Justifying the decision to enter peace talks with the government, Boko Haram cited the Holy Koran: "In the Holy Qu’ran, Sura At Tauba: Wa-injanahuu-Lisalmi Faji Nahlahaa, we are encouraged to seek peace. The Holy Qu’ran also tells us it is good to negotiate. Sura At Nisa Ayih: Wa-sulhu Haira."
Liman said Shekau's peers confronted him with three options: peace deal, leave Boko Haram or die.
Shekau probably chose death, judging from the report that the head of his personal bodyguards, Abdullahi Hassan, confirmed he was shot in the lower leg, thigh and shoulder.
Details of what led to Shekau being shot remain sketchy and it has not been confirmed whether he is dead or alive. According to van Niekerk and Davis:
Shekau’s exact fate is not known. A video clip recovered from a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa Forest Reserve in the northeast Nigeria, raided by the military on May 16, shows Shekau limping, providing confirmation of reports he had been shot.
However, Shekau has been noticeably absent from recent public statements and is not one of the leaders who have engaged with government emissaries. It had been presumed that Shekau chose to voluntarily leave peace discussions in the hands of Boko Haram’s leadership group.
It is being speculated that the move to depose Shekau could lead to further splintering of the Jihadist group as conflict between moderates and extremists intensifies.
However, the latest development will be seen as a major victory of the government's efforts to divide and weaken the group.
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