Politics

The Man Behind the Nigerian Girls’ Kidnappings and His Death-Defying Mystique

In this image made from video received by The Associated Press on Monday, May 5, 2014, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigeria's Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, speaks in a video in which his group claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction of nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria. Shekau threatened to sell the nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school in the remote northeast three weeks ago, in a new videotape received Monday. It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors — who paid a nominal bride price of $12 — and that others have been carried into neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Those reports could not be verified. (AP Photo)
In this image made from video received by The Associated Press on Monday, May 5, 2014, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigeria’s Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, speaks in a video in which his group claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction of nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria. Shekau threatened to sell the nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school in the remote northeast three weeks ago, in a new videotape received Monday. It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors —who paid a nominal bride price of $12 —and that others have been carried into neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Those reports could not be verified. (AP Photo)

(The Washington Post) – No one knows how old he is. Some say 35. Some say 36. Others think he’s 44. Twice he was believed dead, and twice he reemerged to conduct an even broader campaign of killing and terror that made him one of the most wanted men in the world.

His name is Abubakar Shekau. He is the leader of Boko Haram. And he has your girls.

“I abducted the girls at a Western education school,” Shekau proclaimed on Monday in a video, clutching a rifle among several masked men. “And you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. … I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell; he commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”

Shekau, who has a $7 million bounty on his head, grinned a mouth of white teeth. His face was patched by scruff. He raised his arm as though delivering a sermon — and to Shekau, who considers himself a devout holy man, he was. For a group as fragmented and diverse as the Boko Haram, which kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian school girls three weeks ago, one of the few unifying factors is extremist ideology. And no one believes in the cause more than Shekau, a complex, intensely private figure.

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