Abubakar Shekau

Abubakar Shekau

KANO. — Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vowed in a new video released yesterday that the group would defeat a regional force fighting the extremists in Nigeria’s far northeast, Niger and Cameroon.

“Your alliance will not achieve anything. Amass all your weapons and face us. We welcome you,” he said in a 28-minute speech, one of three videos posted by the Islamists on YouTube.

Troops from Nigeria have been backed by soldiers from Chad, Cameroon and Niger in recent weeks because of increased concerns about Boko Haram’s threat to regional security.

In the second of the latest videos, images of the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, are shown along with archive footage and a voiceover recalling a battle between British colonial soldiers and fighters from the Sokoto Caliphate in northern Nigeria.

Shekau has name-checked al-Baghdadi before but appears to be positioning Boko Haram in a wider jihadi context by showing the Sokoto Caliphate, which was dismantled by the British in the early 20th century.

“We never rose up to fight Africa. We rose up to fight the world,” he said.

“We are going to fight the world on the principle that whoever doesn’t obey Allah and the Prophet to either obey or die or become a slave.”

On Sunday, Boko Haram militants waged twin attacks in the town of Diffa in southeast Niger, opening a new front in its offensive after repeated attacks in Cameroon’s far northern region.

The six-year uprising has become a regional crisis and on Saturday, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin agreed to muster 8 700 troops, police and civilians to fight the group.

But Shekau dismissed the size of the force, which had previously been set at about 7 500.

“You send 7,000 troops? Why don’t you send 70 million? This is small. Only 7 000? By Allah, it is small. We can seize them one-by-one. We can seize them one-by-one,” he said in Arabic.

Shekau also directly threatened Chad’s President Idriss Deby, whose forces have attacked Boko Haram in the northeast Nigerian towns of Gamboru and Malam Fatori in recent days. — AFP.

Shekau’s challenge comes after the United States said on Friday that Boko Haram could face a stronger test against more capable regional forces.

Washington estimates that Boko Haram has a core of between 4,000 and 6,000 fighters but is well-equipped after raiding Nigerian Army positions.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s general election will not be postponed past March 28, National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki told AFP yesterday, after he successfully lobbied for a poll delay because of Boko Haram violence.

“Those dates will not be shifted again,” Dasuki said when asked if the polls, initially scheduled for February 14, could be pushed back further.

Dasuki urged election officials to postpone the vote on the grounds that the military could not provide nationwide election security because all available resources were being deployed to the northeast to fight Boko Haram.

His justification for the delay was widely criticised, in part because the military is not primarily responsible for election security in Nigeria.

Troops have only been called in when police and civil defence units have needed reinforcements.

In the interview, Dasuki suggested the main motivation for the delay was the need to assure safe voting in the northeast states where Boko Haram is most active and controls significant territory: Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

The opposition and some observers said the poll was delayed to allow more time for President Goodluck Jonathan to revive his campaign, which was facing a tough challenge from ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

But Dasuki insisted there was no political motive underlying his call for a delay. “It’s not everybody who does things for selfish reasons. Some of us have a conscience,” he said.

He said the postponement could easily help the opposition All Progressives Congress, because improved security could boost turnout in the northeast, an APC stronghold.

The NSA said he believed the new military cooperation agreed two weeks between Nigeria and its neighbours — Cameroon, Chad and Niger — will prove decisive against Boko Haram.

Nigeria’s military has on its own largely failed to contain the uprising over the last six years. — AFP.