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US doubts reports of Boko Haram leader’s death

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The United States voiced skepticism Thursday
over reports from the Nigerian military that
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had been
killed in recent clashes with troops.
“The Nigerians have announced several times
that the head of Boko Haram was dead and every single time we find out that it is not
true,” a senior State Department official told
reporters.

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“What I read recently is that Shekau’s lookalike
or some Shekau impostor was killed and then I
read later that maybe Shekau himself was
killed. I don’t put a lot of weight on those
stories until we see more evidence,” the official
added, asking not to be identified.
The Nigerian defense ministry said on
Wednesday that Shekau was dead and that one
Bashir Mohammed, killed during recent clashes
with troops, was a lookalike who had been
impersonating him in videos.
The announcement was the first time that the
military high command had said Shekau was
dead, after refusing to confirm two previous
claims from police and a regional task force in
2009 and 2013.
But analysts also dismissed it as propaganda,
and the State Department official highlighted
that Boko Haram was still carrying out attacks.
The United States remains committed to trying
to find some 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the
militant group in April, but the official
acknowledged it was “a huge challenge.”
“Many of them were taken into the forest and
given the time that is passed it is possible that
many of them have been taken to other
locations,” the official said.

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