Nigeria’s presidential election on March 28 will not take place peacefully, AbuBakr Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, has said in a new video purportedly released by the group.
In the video, released on social media on Tuesday and obtained by US based SITE intelligence group, Shekau issued a warning to the Goodluck Jonathan’s government that next month’s elections would be disrupted with violence.
“Allah will not leave you to proceed with these elections even after us, because you are saying that authority is from people to people, which means that people should rule each other, but Allah says that the authority is only to him, only his rule is the one which applies on this land,” he said.
“And finally we say that these elections that you are planning to do, will not happen in peace, even if that costs us our lives.
In the video message, titled “A message to the leaders of the disbelievers”, the contents of which Al Jazeera has not been able to independently verify, Shekau also takes aim at the leadership of regional countries who are co-ordinating efforts against the group.
“You are claiming that we don’t know how to fight, but we forced your forces to flee from their bases and we freed our imprisoned brothers from the prisons that you oppressed them in, only praise be to Allah.”
Nigeria’s presidential election was to be originally held on February 14, but was postponed due to security concerns.
Speaking before Shekau’s threat, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou vowed that his country would herald the end for the rebels, whose six-year insurgency has cost more than 13,000 lives.
“Niger will be the death of Boko Haram,” he told a cheering crowd after a protest against the insurgents in the capital Niamey. But Boko Haram has proved resilient and experts question whether the group can be overpowered in the short-term.
On Tuesday, two suicide attacks ripped through northeast Nigeria, killing at least 38 people and injuring 20 others.
In a separate development, the United States military said on Tuesday they would be providing communications equipment and intelligence to help African nations in the fight against Boko Haram.
Major General James Linder said that, as part of the annual US-backed “Flintlock” counter-terrorism exercises this year in Chad, the United States would provide technology allowing African partners to communicate between cellphones, radios and computers.
The renewed attacks on Tuesday came as heads of states from Central African countries were ending a meeting in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, to plan the creation of a joint military response to the growing regional threat posed by Boko Haram.
The 10 member states announced that they had contributed more than 50 percent of the $100m needed to fight Boko Haram. They also called on Nigeria to cooperate by allowing the multinational joint task force to attack Boko Haram in its strongholds in Nigeria.
Boko Haram has fought a five-year insurgency, has recently begun stepping up its attacks against neighbouring countries after Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin agreed to contribute troops toward a regional military effort.
The violence has forced some 157,000 people to seek refuge in Niger, while 40,000 others have gone to Cameroon and 17,000 are in Chad, the UN said.
Almost one million Nigerians are internally displaced, according to the country’s own statistics.
Meanwhile, Nigerian forces have killed more than 300 Boko Haram fighters during an operation to recapture 11 towns and villages since the start of the week, the military said yesterday, as regional neighbours also pounded the militants.
“Weapons and equipment were also captured and some destroyed,” defence spokesperson Major-General Chris Olukolade said. “However, two soldiers lost their lives while 10 others were wounded,” he added.
It was not possible to independently verify the military’s statement. Nigerian forces have in past been accused of overstating enemy casualties while greatly understating their own and those of civilians caught in the crossfire.
Cameroonian forces supported by Chad’s air force carried out air strikes and used heavy artillery against Boko Haram in the village of Gourgouroon, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Cameroon army spokesperson Colonel Didier Badjeck said.
But in the past two weeks the tide has appeared to turn against them, as neighbours Chad, Cameroon and Niger, all of whom are plagued by Boko Haram insurgents, have weighed in.
Nigerian soldiers recaptured the strategic town of Monguno, on the shores of Lake Chad where the four countries meet, from Boko Haram on Monday. More than 5 000 people fled the town after the insurgents seized it last month.
Olukolade said troops had seized five types of armoured fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun, 50 cases of bombs, eight different types of machine guns, some 50 cases of ammunition and 300 motorcycles the rebels use to launch attacks. – AFP