Nigerian intelligence officers have claimed that the Boko Haram leader is either dead or badly wounded following a battle with the Islamic State, APA reports citing The Guardian.
They claim Abubakar Shekau tried to kill himself rather than surrender, after finding himself surrounded and outnumbered by Islamic State’s West Africa Province (Iswap) on Wednesday.
But a local official in Boko Haram's stronghold in the Borno state was sceptical of what is claimed to be only the latest in a string of false intelligence service claims of the terrorist leader's demise.
“The groups have been sparring with more intensity and it was clear if it got to a showdown, Boko Haram have less firepower and ability,” they said. “We have to wait to see if the reports are credible.”
The officials claimed Shekau and a group of his guerrillas were caught by Iswap insurgents riding dozens of 'technicals' — pick-up trucks mounting heavy weapons.
After many of his bodyguards were killed, the Daesh affiliate demanded Shekau pledge allegiance to their leader, Abu Musab al-Barnawi.
At that point reports become confused. The Boko Haram chief reportedly either attempted suicide with a gun, a hand grenade or an explosive suicide vest.
“To avoid capture, Shekau shot himself in the chest and the bullet pierced his shoulder,” one source said, claiming that he was “badly injured.”
Another said he was seriously injured after setting off explosives in a house where he and his remaining followers had taken shelter.
Iswap launched an offensive into the Sambisa Forest, a hideout for Boko Haram, earlier this year. Analysts say Daesh is now a much more significant force in the Sahel region, controlling large areas of territory.
“If true, Shekau’s death will be a huge turning point,” said extremism analyst Bulama Bukarti from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
“It will be a negative development for Boko Haram – and positive for the Lake Chad region – if the death of Shekau worsens the group's factional dispute," Bukarti said. "It will however be a positive development for the group if this leads to a reunification of the group.”