Abubakar Shekau is the ruthless leader of the Nigerian terror group Jama’atu Ahi as-Sunnah il-Da’awati Wal-Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram. A self-proclaimed expert on Islam and an espouser of Jihad, Shekau took control of the group in 2010, and since then has been terrorizing North Eastern Nigeria.
He was recently put back in international spotlight after the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign brought attention to the more than 200 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by his organization.
Here’s what you need to know about Abubakar Shekau:
1. He Worked His Way Up the Ranks of Boko Haram
Boko Haram began in Northern Nigeria in 2002 as a community surrounding a specific religious center. During this time they preached a rejection of Western ideologies and education, government corruption, and secularism. Al Jazeera reports that as the group continued to garner support, particularly in impoverished majority Muslim regions of Nigeria until, in 2009, they’re movement turned violent.
Shekau served as second in command of the group until its original leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed in police custody in 2009. In July 2010, Shekau claimed the leadership of Boko Haram.
Above you can watch one of his many videos where he addresses the downfall of the West.
2. Very Little Is Known About His Past
Abubakar Shekau was born in Yobe, Nigeria, though little else is know about his past. According to the U.S. State Department, Shekau could have been born in either 1965, 1969, or 1975. They also report that his ethnicity is Kanuri, and that he is fluent in Arabic, Hausa, Fulani, and Kanuri.
His nickname is reportedly “Darul Tawheed” which means an expert in monotheism. He is also identified as being an Imam.
3. The U.S. State Department Declared Him a Terrorist in 2012
On June 21, 2012, the U.S. Department of State officially classified Abubakar Sheka and two comrades as terrorists for their involvement of and leadership over Boko Haram. The declaration, which you can read here, came after an 18 month violent campaign during which Boko Haram killed over 1,000 people, including the Christmas day attack on Saint Theresa Catholic Church in Mandalla, Nigeria that killed at least 35 people.
4. There Is a $7 Million Reward for His Capture
The State Department said in a statement that it would be offering up to $7 million for information leading to the death or capture of Abubakar Shekau.
In 2009, it was widely reported that Shekau had been killed by police forces.
5. He Claimed Responsibility for the Kidnapping of More Than 200 School Girls
On April 14, over 200 girls went missing from a school in Chibok in Northern Nigeria. Later, a video surfaced of Abubakar Shekau and other members of Boko Haram confessing that they had kidnapped the girls and that they would be sold as wives and slaves. The large international campaign “Bring Back Our Girls,” brought the issue into the international spotlight and President Barack Obama has now pledged to send assistance to Nigeria.