Abubakar Shekau, the elusive leader of the deadly Islamic sect, Boko Haram, has claimed a series of recent deadly attacks on security forces in the northeast and insisted that he was in “good health” despite the offensive.
A new video released Monday contained what Shekau claimed was footage of Boko Haram gunmen opening fire on the military in the town of Bama, using heavy weapons mounted on flat-bed trucks.
Shekau also referred to fighting in the towns Baga and Gamboru Ngala near the border with Cameroon.
The Boko Haram leader has been declared a global terrorist by the United States, which in March put a $7 million (5.3 million euros) bounty on his head.
“I’m challenging Obama,” Shekau said in the video. He voiced similar challenges to French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“They are no match for me,” he proclaimed.
Boko Haram gunmen are believed to have also launched the latest attack on Sunday against worshippers in Konduga, a Borno village, killing 44 people.
The Boko Haram men were also believed to have launched another attack in a nearby village killing 12 people.
The attacks at the weekend were believed to be in revenge over citizen vigilante groups formed to help the military battle Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has been waging an insurgency since 2009.
“Gunmen believed to be Boko Haram members entered the mosque and opened fire on Muslim worshippers, killing 44,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly of the attack in Konduga on Sunday.
“We believe the attack was not unconnected with the cooperation residents are giving to security operatives in identifying and arresting Boko Haram members in their midst.”
A local official said suspected Boko Haram members also raided Ngom village in the nearby Mafa district and shot dead 12 people on Saturday night.
“Boko Haram members came into Ngom village … and shot dead 12 people on Saturday night,” the official said, also on condition of anonymity. He said they were shot at their homes.
Some residents spoke of the attackers in Konduga arriving wearing army camouflage, a tactic they have used in the past to disguise themselves, though those details had not been officially confirmed.
The violence came as Nigeria’s military pursues an offensive in the country’s northeast aimed at ending the insurgency, with a state of emergency declared in the region in May.
In recent weeks, the military has encouraged the formation of vigilante groups to help authorities locate and arrest members of Boko Haram.
The vigilante groups have been credited with reducing the number of attacks, but some have warned that the situation could spiral out of control and lead to further violence.