The leader of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram claims in a video obtained by AFP on Tuesday that Nigerian soldiers have retreated during an ongoing military offensive and insurgents have sustained little damage.
The video marks the first public comments from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau since the start of a sweeping offensive by the Nigerian army on May 15 and also includes a call for foreign Islamists to join the fight in Nigeria.
Shekau’s whereabouts cannot be determined in the video, in which he is shown seated while dressed in camouflage with a turban, an AK-47 at his side.
His comments contradict statements from the military, which has claimed major successes during the offensive, including the destruction of Boko Haram camps and dozens of arrests.
It has been impossible to verify the claims of either side independently, with the military having cut mobile phone service in much of the country’s northeast and access to remote locations restricted.
“Since we started this ongoing war which they call state of emergency … in some instances soldiers who faced us turned and ran,” Shekau said in the hour-long video.
He claimed Nigerian forces “threw down their arms in flight.”
He called on like-minded Islamists in countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to join the fight to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.
“We call to us our brethren in these countries I mentioned. Oh! Our brethren, come to us,” he said in the video, which alternates between Arabic and the Hausa language spoken across northern Nigeria.
The video later purports to show vehicles and weapons seized from Nigerian soldiers.
Shekau, designated a global terrorist by the United States last year, repeats earlier statements that Boko Haram “will not stop the kidnap of your women and children until you set free our women and children, and our brethren.”
He also says Boko Haram’s goal is either the creation of an Islamic state or “martyrdom”.
The images of Shekau in the video are consistent with those previously released. (AFP)