It emerged yesterday that the terror group Boko Haram has a new leader – Mahamat Daoud – raising speculation that its past leader Abubakar Shekau, who has not been seen in the group’s videos for months, may have been killed.
Making this known, Chadian President Idriss Deby, said Shekau had been replaced by Daoud who has never been heard of before.
Deby also declared that efforts to combat Boko Haram had succeeded in “decapitating” the group and would be wrapped up “by the end of the year”.
Addressing reporters yesterday in the capital, N’Djamena on the 55th anniversary of Chad’s independence from France, Deby said: “Boko Haram is decapitated. There are little groups (of Boko Haram members) scattered throughout North-east Nigeria, on the border with Cameroun. It is within our power to definitively overcome Boko Haram.”
“The war will be short, with the setting up of the regional force, it will be over by the end of the year,” Deby added, referring to a new five-country force aimed at ending Boko Haram’s bloody six-year Islamist insurgency that he said would be “operational in a few days”.
Benin, Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have all pledged troops towards the new force.
According to AFP, Deby further claimed that Boko Haram was no longer led by the fearsome Shekau and that his successor was open to talks.
“There is someone apparently called Mahamat Daoud who is said to have replaced Abubakar Shekau and he wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government.
“For my part, I would advise not to negotiate with a terrorist,” said Deby.
While claiming progress in the fight against the jihadists, who have repeatedly hit border areas of Cameroun, Chad and Niger, and wrought havoc in North-east Nigeria, Deby admitted that suicide bombers still posed a threat.
The challenge, Deby said, was to “avoid terrorist acts and that’s why we must organise at the regional level to prevent bomb-making materials and other explosives entering our countries”.
Last year, the Chadian leader was said to be brokering peace talks with Boko Haram. But the negotiations never happened and were widely seen as a sham, so some analysts will question how much credence to give to Deby’s latest comments about the jihadist group.