Armed ViolenceDisinformationNews

FactCheck: Did Chad’s Army Kill Abubakar Shekau?

Claim: A voice note circulating on WhatsApp with pictures of a dead body claims that Shekau was killed in a recent offensive by Chadian soldiers in Sambisa forest.

Verdict: False

Fake News

Fact: The claim that the leader of Jama’atu Ahlussunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, was killed by Chadian soldiers is not new.

The rumor was started with the same picture of someone who resembles Shekau in 2015 and later in 2018 by the popular Nigerian online forum, Nairaland, and trended on many social media platforms, including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

Several claims were also reported on the death of Shekau but later found to be untrue.

In 2009, he was believed to have died, but appeared in a video less than a year later. In 2013, the Nigerian Army stated that Shekau might have died after he was fatally wounded when soldiers raided some bases in Sambisa forest between July and August of that year.

But a video released by Boko Haram in September of the same year showed a man purported to be Shekau claiming he had not been killed.

Another claim by the Nigerian Army was in 2014 between September 12 and September 14 that the leader of the group was killed in the Battle of Konduga, but videos and audios from the Shekau refuted the claim by mocking the Army.

However, a recent message that came after the offensive carried out by Chadian troops , reported on April 6, 2020, from the Chadian President, Idriss Deby, has called on the Boko Haram Leader to surrender or be killed in his hideout.

The message repudiates the claim that Abubakar Shekau was killed by Chadian soldiers in their offensives from the end of March, 2020.

Abubakar Shekau, on April 1, 2020, released a five minutes audio message addressing the President of Chad, Idris Deby, saying “Do not think because you have fought several secular wars in several fronts you can fight those of us that chose to fight for the sake of religion?”

Reporters believe that the message is an indication that the Chadian forces have put Boko Haram under immense pressure.

Conclusion: The audio message circulating on WhatsApp with the picture of a dead body, claiming that the leader of Boko Haram was killed in a recent offensive by Chadian soldiers is false.

The picture attached to the message was taken from another false claim made in 2015 that Abubakar Shekau was killed but later turned out to be untrue.

Meanwhile, the Embassy of Chad in Nigeria has cautioned the public to be wary of claims that suggest that the Chadian President criticised his Nigerian counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari for not doing enough to fight Boko Haram.

In a statement on Wednesday the mission described the claims as misleading, dubious, completely distorted and taken out of context.

The embassy “strongly rejects and denounces this regrettable misinformation which only aims at deteriorating the excellent relations that exist between Their Excellencies … as well as the cooperation and exemplary and dynamic interaction established between defence and security forces of both sister and neighbouring countries.

“The Embassy commends the spirit of mutual understanding, regular consultations, and active solidarity, never reached in the past, which characterises the relations [between] the two sister countries and the two leaders,” it added.

Since Monday, April 6, some Nigerians have shared on the internet a 2015 New York Times report headlined “Chad Strongman Says Nigeria Is Absent in Fight Against Boko Haram” and published two months before Buhari was inaugurated.

In the report, Déby blamed the Nigerian troops for delaying his army’s advance and wasting time “for the benefit of Boko Haram”.

The post recently became of interest especially because, just a week earlier, Chadian military forces launched a major military campaign against the terror groups, Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), around Lake Chad.

Following the incident, the factional leader of Boko Haram, Shekau, urged his members to remain in the region and fight rather than flee.

“Do not think because you have fought several secular wars on several fronts, you can fight those of us that chose to fight for the sake of religion,” he told Deby in the five-minute audio recording.

(Additional reporting by Kunle Adebajo)

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Aliyu Dahiru

Aliyu is an Assistant Editor at HumAngle and Head of the Radicalism and Extremism Desk. He has years of experience researching misinformation and influence operations. He is passionate about analysing jihadism in Africa and has published several articles on the topic. His work has been featured in various local and international publications.

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