Boko Haram chief issues video threat over anti-Islam film
KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - The suspected leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has issued a threat in a YouTube video over a United States (US)-made anti-Islam film that has sparked widespread protests in the Muslim world.
"First, insults against The Prophet, evil plots against him, making blasphemous movies against him, all these will do no harm to Islam," Abubakar Shekau says in the video which appears to have been posted on Sunday.
"Anybody plotting this will surely pay for it. Everybody knows what this statement entails. Everybody should wait and see what we will do regarding this," he adds in the Hausa language spoken in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.
The video could not be independently authenticated, but it closely resembled previous such clips of Shekau, who has been in hiding since a 2009 crackdown by Nigeria's military on Boko Haram.
Nigeria marked 52 years of independence from Britain on Monday, but Shekau makes no reference to it in the video.
A number of protests over the anti-Islam film have been held in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north organised by a Shi'ite Muslim group not connected to Boko Haram, with no violent incidents occurring.
The crudely made Innocence of Muslims movie, produced by US-based extremist Christians, has however sparked angry and at times violent demonstrations across the globe.
In the nine-minute video, an AK-47 assault rifle leant on the wall next to him, Shekau also threatens Nigerian authorities, says he is prepared to die and denies government assertions that there has been dialogue with his group.
He also claims the purported spokesman for Boko Haram, who goes by the alias Abul Qaqa, is still alive despite claims from Nigeria's military that he was killed by security forces some two weeks ago.
Boko Haram's insurgency in northern and central Nigeria is blamed for more than 1,400 deaths since 2010.
The group has claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, though its demands have repeatedly shifted.
It is also thought to have a number of factions with varying aims, with Shekau believed to lead its main Islamist wing. Criminal gangs and imitators are believed to also have carried out violence under the guise of the group.
Nigeria's government has claimed to have engaged in back-channel talks with the Islamists in a bid to end the violence. Shekau denied this in the video, while accusing authorities of arresting members' wives and threatening to take revenge.
"We have never sat down with anyone in the name of dialogue ... Our people are being killed and humiliated, while on the other hand people are being deceived with the issue of dialogue," he says.
"By God, there is nothing like dialogue. They are only killing us. We will never abandon our faith because of that." In a message directed at Nigerian secret police officers, he says he will "slit your throat."
"I'm alive, well and hearty. Nothing has happened to me," he says. "I'm even longing for death, you vagabond."
In June, the US State Department labelled Shekau and two other Nigerian extremists "global terrorists." Washington has however so far declined to label Boko Haram a terrorist organisation, saying the group did not appear homogeneous and that the threat in any case remained domestically focused.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.