Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sect Leader Challenges Nigeria President in Video

12 January 2012

LAGOS, Nigeria

The leader of a radical Islamist sect has challenged the authority of Nigeria's president in an online video, promising more attacks in a nation increasingly overcome by unrest and divided by religion.

The video of Imam Abubakar Shekau cements his leadership in the sect known as Boko Haram. Analysts and diplomats say the sect has fractured over time, with a splinter group responsible for the majority of the assassinations and bombings carried out in its name.

It also exploits the widening mistrust those living in Nigeria's Muslim north feel for a weak federal government run by a Christian president, who has sparked a nationwide strike and protests after removing subsidies that kept gasoline prices low.

Shekau took control of the sect after a riot and security crackdown in July 2009 saw Boko Haram's leader and about 700 others killed. Police initially claimed to have killed Shekau during that violence in Nigeria, but he emerged last year in audio and video messages just before Boko Haram began its campaign of violence.

In the 15-minute video uploaded Tuesday to YouTube, Shekau appears relaxed, wearing a camouflage bulletproof vest and sitting between two Kalashnikov rifles. He criticized President Goodluck Jonathan for speaking out about the sect and hints that the group carries much more popular support across Nigeria's arid and impoverished north than what authorities believe.

"All these things you've been seeing happening, it's Allah who has been doing it because you refuse to believe in him and you misuse his religion and because of that, the thing is more than you, Jonathan," Shekau says. You can "meet other people who think what we're doing is good."

Shekau also recites a list of areas where Muslims have been killed in communal violence across Nigeria, then called on the president of an umbrella group of Christians to "repent" for calling on worshippers to defend themselves after Boko Haram began targeting Christians.

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