Nigeria’s military said an airstrike on Boko Haram hideouts in Sambisa forest led to the killing and wounding many of the country’s Islamist extremist group’s senior commanders including its elusive leader Abubakar Shekau with at least 300 of its fighters.
The military said on Tuesday that Shekau who is in a power struggle with Abu Musab al-Barnawi was “fatally wounded.”
There was no prove of him being hurt resulting to skepticsm from counter terrorism experts. Nigeria’s military had made repeated claims of killing Shekau previously only for videos of him to emerge months later.
Military spokesperson Sani Usman said Boko Haram commanders Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman are confirmed death.
Nigeria has been lobbying the U.S. to sell military aircrafts to the government to fight the insurgency in the country’s northeast. U.S. blocked arms trade and training of Nigeria’s military over its rights record. Nigeria’s government said its rights record has since improved.
“But extremism can’t be defeated through repression or fear. Fear instilled through repression invites not confidence but contempt,” Kerry said. “It creates terrorists, trust creates citizens,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
In May, U.S. officials told Reuters that Washington wanted to sell up to 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Nigeria in recognition of Buhari’s reform of the country’s army but Congress needs to approve the deal.
Kerry has committed to more military aid to Nigeria and says fight against Boko Haram is not just a military one.
President Buhari stressed that the militancy in the Delta region is an obstacle to addressing broader issues facing Nigeria including Boko Haram.
Over 20 thousand people have been killed since the Boko Haram insurgency started. It has left certain part of the country’s majority Muslim north in a deep humanitarian crisis.
“Boko Haram knows no religion other than to kill and slaughter innocent people. They have complete and total neglect for human lives. Boko Haram is not the only terrorist group confronting the world today. However, we do not have to be prisoners of these militant evil groups” Kerry said.
An analyst told the AFP that Nigeria’s military may be trying to prove the legitimacy of using airstrikes after a video was released earlier this month claiming that some of the 218 kidnapped Chibok girls had died following an aerial attack on Boko Haram camps by government forces.
(Reporting and writing by Alhagie Jobe; Additional writing and editing by Sam Phatey)