“To hell with Obama!” Abubakar Shekau said during the rant. “To hell with [U.N. secretary-general] Ban ki Moon! To hell with [French president] Francois Hollande! To hell with [Russian president] Vladimir Putin!”
Although Shekau claimed responsibility for last Monday’s bomb blast in Abuja, which cost at least 75 lives and was the deadliest terrorist attack ever in the capital, he did not refer to the abduction hours later of more than 100 schoolgirls in the country’s far north-east. A Borno state’s top education official said in a statement Friday 85 of the girls remain missing.
Shekau, one of three Boko Haram leaders designated by the State Department in 2012 under an executive order designed to disrupt funding to terrorists, said his group carried out the bombing in Abuja because of the killing of Muslims in Nigeria and elsewhere. His remarks in the local Hausa language were translated by Premium Times, an Abuja-based media group.
“We carried out the attack because you kill Muslims in Plateau,” he said in comments directed at Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, and referring to the Nigerian state that lies roughly on the divide between the country’s Muslim north and Christian south.
“You kill Muslims in every country of the world,” he continued. “Why don’t you global tyrants talk when Muslims are killed in Afghanistan? Why don’t you talk when Muslims were killed in Iraq? And they are still being killed. Why don’t you talk when Muslims are killed in the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria, and now Yemen, Mali, Azerbaijan, Shishan [Chechnya], Pakistan?”
Shekau, dressed in military fatigues and carrying an assault rifle, taunted Jonathan directly, calling him a “lame duck” and inviting him to hunt for Boko Haram, which he said was “in your city, near you.”
“Jonathan, you are now too small for us. We can only deal with your grand masters like Obama the president of America,” he said. “Even they cannot do anything to us … we are more than them.”
Shekau described himself as someone who “does not like Christians, and I don’t like Muslims that relate with Christians. We have been commanded by Allah not to associate with infidels because they cannot be trusted until they accept your religion.”
In a previous video message, last August, Shekau boasted that his group was now strong enough to “comfortably confront” the United States.
“Let the world know that we have been enjoined by Allah to kill the unbelievers,” he said in that message. “We shall continue to kill those who strive to stand against the will of Allah by opposing shari’a. We don’t mind if we die doing this because it is even a blessing for us to die in this cause and gain paradise.”
In a 2012 message, Shekau urged Jonathan to “repent and forsake Christianity” – or resign. Inviting an enemy to convert to Islam or face the consequences is a longstanding tradition in Islam, modeled on the example set by Mohammed.
After coming under pressure from U.S. lawmakers for almost two years, the State Department last November designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization.
In the past, some U.S. officials have played down religion as a main motivation for Boko Haram’s violent campaign, which began in earnest in 2009. In 2001 then-assistant secretary of state for African affairs Johnnie Carson told a U.S. Senate hearing that religion was “not the primary driver behind extremist violence in Nigeria,” and said Boko Haram was exploiting “the legitimate grievances of northern populations to garner recruits and public sympathy.”
The following later, Carson told a congressional panel that Boko Haram remains “primarily focused on discrediting the Nigerian government.”