Nigeria army
Nigerian soldiers patrol in the north of Borno state, close to a former Boko Haram camp near Maiduguri Getty Images

The Nigerian army has claimed that Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau has been "fatally wounded" in an air raid that also killed several top commanders of the Islamist group. The claim is yet to be independently verified.

Over the past few days, the Nigerian army has been conducting aerial operations against the extremist group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (Isis) group and seeks to abolish Western influence in the African nation.

In the early hours of Tuesday (23 August), the Nigerian army wrote on Twitter: "Breaking News: Nigerian Air Force raid kills Boko Haram terrorists commanders... 'Abubakar Shekau' fatally wounded."

The army's claims come a day after the Nigerian air force said as many as 300 Boko Haram insurgents were killed during operations in the state of Borno, a stronghold of the Islamist group.

Nigeria's Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar told reporters on Monday (22 August): "I cannot but say thank you. I am very happy to note that since August 16 to now, you undertook extensive air operations and we were able to deal with these terrorists trying to make life difficult for our people.

"Of particular note is the operation you conducted on the 19th of this month, it was a night operation and we were very lucky to deal with these guys (insurgents) who had en-massed and were planning an attack. We are very happy to note that about 300 of them will not be available to commit evil again."

In the past, the Nigerian army has been accused of exaggerating claims to drum up public support in their fight against Boko Haram. The organisation's top commander, Shekau, who became the group's chief in 2009, has also been reportedly injured in past counter-terrorism operations.

The army's latest claim comes at a time when there are major changes taking place within Boko Haram, with the interference of IS (Daesh). The group is thought to have been split into two different factions – one loyal to Shekau and another to Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who has allegedly been appointed as leader by the IS.