Military dismisses Boko Haram ‘propaganda’, trailing Shekau’s whereabouts


ABUJA (AFP) – Nigeria’s military on Thursday dismissed as “empty propaganda”  claims by Boko Haram’s leader that soldiers have retreated during an ongoing  offensive, insisting the campaign has heavily damaged the Islamist  insurgents.

In a video obtained by AFP on Tuesday, Boko  Haram chief Abubakar Shekau said soldiers have at times “turned and ran” when  facing Islamist fighters and rejected military boasting about the success of the  operation.

“We consider it as empty propoganda,” defence  spokesman Brigadier General Chris Olukolade said of the video.

“To the best of our understanding, at the moment  (the insurgents) are in disarray. They are on the run and so many of them have  been captured,” he told AFP.

He declined to provide figures of those captured  or killed in the operation launched on May 15 after President Goodluck Jonathan  declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states considered Boko Haram  strongholds.

Shekau’s whereabouts, which cannot be determined  in the video, remain unknown.

“I don’t know his location but I know that  intelligence is trailing him,” Olukolade said.

Shekau called on like-minded Islamists in  countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to join the fight to create  an Islamic state in Nigeria.

Olukolade suggested the plea for foreign  assistance implied weakness.

“If they are still firmly on ground why does he  need help?”

The United States and analysts have voiced  concern over the prospect of widespread civilian casualties during the  operation, with Nigeria’s military having been accused of massive abuses in the  past.

Olukolade told AFP he has seen no credible  evidence of soldier misconduct in the offensive.

With the military having cut mobile phone  service in much of the northeast and access to remote locations restricted,  rivals claims about the conflict have been impossible to verify.

Olukolade said that air strikes used so far have  primarily included covering fire for ground troops tasked with storming Boko  Haram camps.

The military has claimed the destruction of  several such camps, primarily in Borno state, Boko Haram’s traditional base.

Boko Haram has waged its insurgency since 2009,  with an estimated 3,600 lives lost, including killings by the security  forces.

The group has pushed for the creation of an  Islamic state in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, though  its demands have repeatedly shifted.



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