Nigeria’s military is investigating reports that the leader of militant Islamist group Boko Haram may have been killed or seriously injured following clashes with rival jihadists, an army spokesman said.
Abubakar Shekau has been the figurehead of an Islamist insurgency that has since 2009 killed more than 30,000 people, forced around 2 million people to flee their homes and spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
A number of reports published on Thursday in Nigeria media, citing intelligence sources, said Shekau was seriously hurt or killed after his insurgents clashed with members of Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), which broke away from his group in 2016.
Reuters has been unable to independently verify the claims.
A Nigerian Army spokesman, Mohammed Yerima, said the military were investigating.
“It’s a rumour. We are investigating it. We can only say something if we confirm it,” said the spokesman.
Shekau was said to have been killed on several occasions over the last 12 years, including in announcements by the military, only to later appear in a video post.
Meanwhile in another development, Nigeria’s army chief, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, died in a plane crash on Friday on an official visit to the northern state of Kaduna, which has had security challenges in recent months, the presidency said.
The air force said in a statement that its plane crashed near Kaduna airport and that it was investigating the cause.
The presidency said the army general and other military officers died in the crash on Friday.
Photo: Nigerian soldiers clearing Islamic militant group Boko Haram camps at Chuogori and Shantumari in Borno State, Nigeria. EPA/STR