Nigerian terror group Boko Haram have appointed a new leader, according to Chad President Idriss Deby. Deby made the comment as he addressed reporters during the celebration of the 55th anniversary of Chad's independence from France. The revelation comes weeks after the Islamist group's leader Abubakar Shekau failed to appear in the group's latest video, triggering speculations on his fate.
Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorists?
Boko Haram (recently renamed Iswap) fights against Western influence in Nigeria and aims to impose its version of Sharia law on the country. The group declared an Islamic caliphate in Gwoza, along the Cameroon border, in August 2014.
Boko Haram has raided several cities in the north of the country in a bid to take control of more land.
Three states − Adamawa, Borno and Yobe − have been under a state of emergency since May 2013, due to Boko Haram's attacks.
The group has killed at least 2,600 people since the beginning of 2015. Some 200 have been killed since the beginning of June.
"There is someone apparently called Mahamat Daoud who is said to have replaced Abubakar Shekau and he wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government," Deby was quoted by AFP as saying. The leader added that the Islamist outfit has been "decapitated" in an ongoing regional fight to curb terrorism.
"Boko Haram is decapitated. There are little groups [of Boko Haram members] scattered throughout east Nigeria, on the border with Cameroon. It is within our power to definitively overcome Boko Haram," he said. "The war will be short, with the setting up of the regional force, it will be over by the end of the year."
"At the moment we don't have fresh information. We can say it is possible that Boko Haram appointed a new leader, but we cannot confirm it yet," government spokesperson Mike Omeri told IBTimes UK. "The position of the Nigerian government is clear: whatever it takes to get our citizens from captivity and stops violence, abductions and killings, we will do. The government is ready to invoke international best practices. If it [negotiating] is part of best practices, why not?"
The Nigerian army announced that a new task force – consisting of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin – is ready to step up in the fight against the terrorists. Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries since its insurgency became violent in 2009.
Chad vowed it would crush Boko Haram following deadly attacks in the capital N'Djamena that killed dozens earlier in June. Following the attack, the first terror incident of its kind in N'Djamena, Chad bombed six Boko Haram camps in northern Nigeria. However, the Nigerian government denied that Chad carried out air strikes in Nigerian borders, with the army spokesperson Chris Olukolade saying that Chad's statement was incorrect as the area targeted was not "within Nigerian territory".
Chad also banned the use of full face veils, arguing that the attackers were wearing the veil as a "camouflage" and announced it would start round up and arrest foreigners. Boko Haram attacks continue to claim lives in northern Nigeria, where more than 1m people have been displaced due to violence. In the latest attack blamed on Boko Haram, some 47 people were killed when a bomb exploded at a busy market in the restive Borno state.
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