Abubakar Shekau, who took over leadership of Boko Haram after its founder was killed in 2009, recently said he maintains his position as leader in the group despite contradicting claims. The Nigerian Army on Monday said Shekau was "fatally wounded" in an airstrike conducted last week. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice
ABUJA, Nigeria, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- The Nigerian Army said an airstrike carried out last week "fatally wounded" self-proclaimed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.
Nigerian Army Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman, acting director of the army's public relations division, said Monday the "unprecedented and spectacular air raid" conducted on Friday by the Nigerian air force killed "some key leaders of the Boko Haram terrorists" while others were "fatally wounded."
"Those Boko Haram terrorists commanders confirmed dead include Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman, amongst others," the army colonel wrote. "While their leader, so-called 'Abubakar Shekau,' is believed to be fatally wounded on his shoulders. Several other terrorists were also wounded."
Shekau became leader of Boko Haram after its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in 2009 -- when the militant Islamist group first began its campaign of mass kidnappings, executions, suicide bombings and assaults on remote military bases and villages. More than 20,000 people have been killed and millions have fled Nigeria due to the fighting that created a humanitarian crisis.
Boko Haram would later pledge allegiance to the Islamic State -- becoming the self-proclaimed caliphate's West Africa province.
Earlier this month, Shekau said in a video he remained the leader of Boko Haram despite contradicting claims published in an Islamic State magazine, also vowing to continue fighting. At that time, the Islamic State declared Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of founder Yusuf, the new "governor" of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 2013. The militant Islamic group seeks to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and has ruthlessly targeted civilians.