KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) - In an audio tape posted on the Internet, the purported leader of the violent Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram threatened to kill more security personnel and kidnap their families, and accused U.S. President Barack Obama of waging war on Islam.
In the 45-minute tape released on Thursday, a man’s voice in the main northern Hausa language claimed to be Abubakar Shekau. He said President Goodluck Jonathan would fail to stop their insurgency.
Boko Haram’s attacks have become more sophisticated and deadly in recent weeks in Africa’s top oil producer. A series of gun and bomb attacks killed 186 people in Nigeria’s second city of Kano last Friday.
“We were responsible for the attack in Kano, I gave the order and I will do it again and again. Allah gives us victory,” the voice said.
If confirmed as authentic, the second tape in just under three weeks by Shekau would suggest he wants to use to media to establish his authority over the group, security sources said.
Shekau is said to have taken over control of Boko Haram, which wants sharia law more widely applied across Nigeria, after the sect’s founder Mohammed Yusuf was killed in police custody in 2009 following an uprising in which 700 people were killed.
However, security experts say it is unclear whether Boko Haram really has a unified leadership.
Boko Haram, a movement loosely modeled on the Afghan Taliban whose name translates from the northern Hausa language as “Western education is sinful,” has been behind almost daily killings in its home base in the largely Muslim northeast, and occasionally in the capital Abuja.
The Kano attack was their deadliest strike yet.
“We attacked the securities base because they were arresting our members and torturing our wives and children. They should know they have families too, we can abduct them. We have what it takes to do anything we want,” the voice on the tape said.
But he denied responsibility for the civilian casualties, which police said made up 150 of the deaths.
“We never kill ordinary people, rather we protect them. It is the army that rushed to the press to say we are the ones killing civilians. We are not fighting civilians. We only kill soldiers, police and other security agencies,” he said.
In August last year, the sect carried out a suicide car bombing of the United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja that killed 24 people. On Christmas Day it masterminded coordinated explosions against Christians, including one at a church near Abuja that killed at least 37 people.
In a previous video tape on January 11, Shekau defended attacks against Christians.
President Jonathan told Reuters on Thursday that Boko Haram had made contact with other jihadist groups operating in the region, echoing views by security experts that AQIM has trained and supported some Boko Haram militants, though its interests remain local.
He challenged the group to identify themselves and state their demands as a basis for talks.
The tape hinted that Boko Haram was part of a global jihad against Western interests.
“In America, from former President George Bush to Obama, the Americans have always been fighting and destroying Islam,” he said. “They have tagged us terrorists and they are paying for it. It is the same in Nigeria, and we will resist.”
Writing by Tim Cocks