Boko Haram’s leader said a northeast town seized by the insurgents earlier this month has been placed under an Islamic caliphate, in a video.
“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in (the town of) Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 52-minute video.
The military however rejected the claim, saying in a statement that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact”.
In a July video, Shekau voiced support for the leader of the Islamic State (IS) militants Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in late June declared himself “the caliph” and “leader of Muslims everywhere”.
But there was no indication from Shekau in the latest video that he was associating himself with Baghdadi, whose Sunni Muslim fighters have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.
As such, it was not clear if Shekau was declaring himself to be a part of Baghdadi’s call or if he was referring to a separate Nigerian caliphate.
In the 19th century, a Sokoto caliphate was proclaimed across most of modern-day northern Nigeria and was considered separate from other Islamic kingdoms, such as the Ottoman Empire.
Shekau — who has been designated a global terrorist by the United States — is shown in the video wearing military fatigues, with a Kalashnikov rifle strapped to his body.
He alternates between Arabic and the Hausa language that is dominant in the region.
He is pictured standing in front of three SUVs and flanked by four fighters, who are masked and armed. It is not clear when or where the video was filmed. There was no indication that Shekau was actually in Gwoza for the filming and his whereabouts remain unknown but another unidentified fighter who speaks later in the video vowed that Boko Haram would keep control of the area.
“By the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay,” said the militant wearing a green shirt and a white cap.