The leadership decapitation strategy by counter terrorism states that led to the elimination of terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Laden and other top AQ and ISIL leaders has in the long run revealed that targeting selected group leaders at the top of the organisational structure may have a short term negative impact on the group operation but it does not translate to long term success and defeat especially where a leader is taking out late in his leadership . A terrorist can be killed but the ideology is much bigger and deeper than any individual leader. A new leader is often ready to replace the old one – most often, the new leaders have proven to be more daring and lethal than their predecessors.
To maintain credibility and win the trust of the people in need of protection within the affected and vulnerable communities, security services must pay more attention to the underlying aims and objectives of these terrorist groups and how to devise effective strategies from local, state, national, regional, and international that will assist in preventing and countering drivers and enablers of radicalisation and violent extremism. Focusing on declaring men like Shekau dead or alive is an unnecessary distraction to the actual substance of the day. Such unhelpful engagements in the name of propaganda only fattens the always hungry local, national and international media.
Abubakar Shekau whom the Nigerian military has declared dead in more than 4 separate occasions – has reappeared on video again. In this most recent video , he taunts the Nigerian army by declaring himself alive and not ‘fatally wounded’. As a matter of ideology, Shekau lays bare what the group’s vantage point in the relationship between today’s Islam and Western civilisation.
According to Abubakar Shekau – the “tactical” introduction of secular education, sports and Music in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region historically known as the Kanem & Bornu Empire has been responsible for the rapid decline of ‘pure Islamic’ practices. In the video, Shekau gives strict conditions under which the sect would sanction the release of the Chibok Girls captured on the night of April 13-15, 2014.
Will the Nigerian government together with other affected regional states still consider negotiation and dialogue with any Boko Haram faction after Shekau’s recent video? How will counter terrorism solution providers approach a counter narrative to Shekau’s claims that Western civilisation including programmes like secular Education , Sports and Music are key motivational factors for the violent rise of Jihadist like Boko Haram, ISIL and AQ core. Will the ‘real death’ of Shekau make any difference to the current Boko Haram strategy of using the Chibok Girls as a bargaining chip with the Nigerian government…?
David Otto Institutional Representative of SECINDEF (Security Intelligence and Defense) Israel-USA International Consulting Counterterrorism in the United Kingdom and collaborating analyst of OCATRY (Observatory against the Terrorist Threat and the Jihadist Radicalization) David Otto is the Director of TGS Intelligence Consultants Ltd and the Preventing Radicalisation and Violent Extremism Programme – Step In Step Out (SISO) – based in the United Kingdom. He is also Senior Counter Terrorism Advisor for Global Risk International.