Boko Haram's new video shifts from speeches to beheadings

Boko Haram's latest videos shift from speeches by chief to filmed beheadings, in apparent nod to Islamic State

The latest video from Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which shows the beheaded bodies of two men accused of spying, does not offer the same slick cinematography that the Islamic State uses to shock the West and lure recruits.

But while more amateurish, the video titled “Harvest of Spies” is a sharp contrast with Boko Haram’s past crude YouTube efforts. Those mainly included rambling speeches by its leader, Abubakar Shekau, most infamously boasting about the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls.

Boko Haram has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks by a regional force that includes troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, and on Monday lost control of the northeastern Nigeria town of Dikwa. As it has been driven from towns and villages, it has issued several videos both threatening neighboring countries and vowing to attack voters in Nigerian elections due later this month.

A 12-minute video last month was typical, showing Shekau seated near a Kalashnikov, declaring that elections were un-Islamic because men could only be led by God, not politicians. The elections wouldn’t go ahead, he vowed, “even if we are dead.”

But with its latest video, posted online Monday, Boko Haram appears to have borrowed at least some elements from the Islamic State’s recent postings. The masked terrorists are clad in black or camouflage, one of them wielding a long dagger. They stand behind their victims, who kneel in a dusty glade, hands tied behind their backs, in what might be a nod to the recent Islamic State footage of 21 Coptic Christians seized in Libya and beheaded on a beach by masked men in black.

While some analysts speculated Boko Haram may be increasingly inspired by Islamic State, Shekau did not mention his fellow terrorists in last month’s video address. Throughout more than a decade-long insurgency, Boko Haram’s focus has been more local than that of Islamic State or Al Qaeda. Its objective has always been to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, and it has rarely threatened global targets.

In recent years, Boko Haram has decapitated hundreds of prisoners and has reportedly filmed the confessions of alleged spies and their beheadings. But the posting of such videos on social media is a more recent development.

The new video shows a man identified as a farmer from the northeastern town of Baga, Dawood Muhammad, who confesses to being paid about $25 by a Nigerian policeman named Saeed to spy.

Muhammad, questioned by a fighter in camouflage holding a long dagger, says a man offered to be “partner on a job that could earn us both a lot of money.” The two went to meet a third man who introduced them to the police officer, Muhammad says. He said there were three men in a spy ring.

“Our mission is to give them information about the residents who live in here,” he says, appearing to speak under duress. “They said that by God’s will, I will become rich and will never go back to being a farmer again.”

The group’s black flag is shown behind the prisoners. The video ends with the decapitated heads of the two men, pictured on their chests. It authenticity couldn’t be independently confirmed.

In recent weeks, Nigeria’s military has claimed to have killed hundreds of militants and recaptured dozens of towns, recovering ammunition, weapons, tanks and vehicles. However, troops from Chad, more than from Nigeria, have been instrumental in the victories.

Chadian forces Monday reclaimed control of Dikwa, east of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times. Boko Haram had killed hundreds of people in the town, Associated Press reported.

Nigerian military officials said Tuesday that their troops killed 73 Boko Haram fighters disguised as cattle herders who attacked the town of Konduga. The militants were driven back, the military said.

Nigeria last month postponed until March its presidential election, which was originally planned for Feb. 14, citing the insecurity in the country’s northeast.

With President Goodluck Jonathan facing a strong challenge from former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, the election delay bought him time to turn around the fight against Boko Haram. Jonathan boasted last month that Shekau would be captured before the elections were held, while military officials insist the war is nearly over.

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