Boko Haram leader vows to disrupt Nigeria elections
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Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vowed to disrupt Nigeria’s upcoming general elections in a new video released Tuesday, after two suicide attacks in the northeast blamed on the Islamists killed 38 people.
“This election will not be held even if we are dead. Even if we are not alive Allah will never allow you to do it,” Shekau said in the Hausa language, presumably referring to the polls scheduled for March 28.
The video appeared to be the first message released by the group on Twitter, a sign of its changing media tactics after previous messages were distributed to journalists on DVD.
Shekau was shown in unusual clarity in front of a solid blue background, dressed in black and with an automatic weapon resting to his right.
Nigeria’s general election had been scheduled for February 14 but was postponed by six weeks, with the security services saying they needed more time to contain the violence in the northeast, Boko Haram’s stronghold.
Despite Shekau’s threat, experts doubt that the Islamist rebels have the capacity to disrupt voting nationwide, although election officials have conceded that voting could prove impossible in parts of the northeast, especially by March 28, the new election day.
But the latest wave of attacks blamed on the rebels underscored the challenge facing Nigeria and its neighbours -- Cameroon, Chad and Niger -- despite claims of successes in the joint operation launched this month.
Checkpoint, restaurant attacked Tuesday
In Nigeria's Borno state, three assailants in a motorised rickshaw detonated explosives at a checkpoint at Yamarkumi village, near the town of Biu, at about 1:00 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Tuesday.
The suicide attack killed 36 people and injured 20, a source at the Biu General Hospital told AFP, requesting anonymity.
"Most of the victims were child vendors and beggars that usually crowd the checkpoint," the source added.
Boko Haram has repeatedly tried to seize Biu, 180 kilometres (110 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri, but has been repelled by troops and local vigilantes.
Some four hours later, in Potiskum, the economic capital of neighbouring Yobe state, a bomber blew himself up inside Al-Amir restaurant, a popular chain in northern Nigeria.
The restaurant manager and a steward were killed, while 13 staff and customers were seriously injured, a police officer and nurse the Potiskum General Hospital said.
Meanwhile, the Chadian army said its troops had engaged in fierce combat with Boko Haram militants near the town of Dikwa, some 90 kilometres from Maiduguri.
Two Chadian soldiers and "several" militants were killed in the clashes," a Chadian military source said on condition of anonymity.
In the video, Shekau repeated threats against Chadian President Idriss Deby and Niger's leaders, vowing that his fighters would outlast the multi-national offensive.
He also said the insurgents freed their brothers-in-arms during a weekend raid in the Nigerian city of Gombe, rejecting a military claim that the attack was repelled.
Nigeria's neighbours claim major gains
Nigeria had long complained that lack of action from its neighbours had hampered efforts against Boko Haram and has said the new cooperation could prove decisive.
Niamey said that more than 200 rebels were killed in its first cross-border raid on the southeast of the country and on Tuesday claimed to have averted a suicide attack in the Diffa region.
On Monday, police in Diffa, which is currently under a state of emergency, claimed they had detained more than 160 people suspected of being allied to the outlawed group.
Cameroon's army separately announced that it had killed 86 militants and detained more than 1,000 people suspected of having links to Boko Haram in the country's far north.
But with access difficult to the remote regions increasingly at the centre of the conflict and communications often non-existent, there was no independent corroboration of the claims.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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