ABU SHEKAU ISSUES VIDEO MESSAGE TO NIGERIAN PRESIDENT
Abu Shekau, the leader of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, issued a message on YouTube on January 11, 2012 addressed “to the President of Nigeria, Jonathan, who has come out to say negative things about us….” Wearing a red and white turban, a camouflage bullet-proof vest, and with two Kalashnikov rifles behind him, Shekau justified Boko Haram’s attacks against Christians “who slaughtered us and took our wives and humiliated us,” declared that democracy and the Constitution were “paganism,” and promised “fellow Muslims” that Boko Haram’s “objectives are not to kill or humiliate or steal (Vanguard, January 11).”
Eight days later, on January 20, 2012, Boko Haram carried out a series of bombings mostly on police stations in Kano killing more than 175 people. In addition to his stated reasons for the attack—to punish the police for arresting Boko Haram members in Nigeria’s most respected Islamic city—Shekau may have had personal motivations. On December 15, 2011 Nigerian State Security Forces reportedly arrested Shekau’s wife with his seven-month old son in Kano (Nairaland, December 15, 2011). In an e-mail sent from Shekau to journalists in Kano on December 18, 2011 he said that, “Recently, security agencies launched a fresh onslaught on some of our members in Kano city in which even women and children were not spared (Vanguard, December 18, 2011).”
Before Shekau gave the orders for the Kano attacks, he may have fled to Ngaoundere, Cameroon; possibly with the help of northern government officials who have ongoing contacts with Boko Haram (Nigerian Voice, January 24). Shekau issued another YouTube statement from his hideout on January 27 in which for the first time since July 2011 he referenced America. He said, “From former President George Bush to Obama, the Americans have always been fighting and destroying Islam…. They have labeled us as terrorists and they are paying for it (Reuters [Kano], January 28).”
In 2012, Boko Haram may try to expand its operations to Western embassies and personnel, businesses, and hotels. However, Shekau views the Nigerian and American governments both as legitimate “non-Muslim” targets and attacks on “soft” targets, such as local police stations and churches, may have a higher success rate and serve the same ends for him.
PERUVIAN ARMY PRESSES PROSEGUIR FACTION
“Comrade Artemio” is under pressure from the Peruvian army, which is honing in on the Shining Path in the Upper Huallaga Valley where Artemio’s faction, called “Proseguir,” or “Continue,” is based. On January 10, 2012, one of the members of Artemio’s security team, Marino Tapullima aka “Comrade Dante, Delta, and Kike”, was captured in Cuñumbuza in San Martín Province while trying to recruit youths to join the Shining Path (El Comercio, January 9).
Artemio granted an interview at his base on December 1, 2011. For the first time ever Artemio, who said his real name is José Pepe Flores, allowed his face to be shown. He admitted that “the armed struggle is over,” “excesses had been committed,” and the political objectives that the Shining Path took up arms for—“anti-imperialism, anti-bureaucratic capitalism, and anti-semi-feudalism—” are unachievable. He denied having links to drug traffickers, but said that because the Shining Path’s enemy was only the state, drug traffickers were allowed to operate in his territory. The U.S. State Department Narcotics Rewards Program has a $5 million reward for Artemio.
The other faction of the Shining Path led by “Comrade José” is based in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley, or VRAE, and is involved in the production and sale of coca base and cocaine. Artemio calls Comrade José’s faction “mercenaries” with no connection to the Shining Path’s revolutionary ideology because, unlike “Proseguir,” they work with drug traffickers in return for a share of the profits (RPP Noticias, December 7, 2011).
Artemio may be trying to clean up his image, knowing that with only 150 to 200 fighters in Proseguir and the government closing in, his capture is imminent. However, after a 30-year career as a rebel who participated in all of the Shining Path’s “excesses,” he will likely meet the fate of Shining Path founder, Abimael Guzmán, who is serving a life term in prison, or Alfonso Cano, the leader of FARC who was shot dead by government troops in Colombia in November 2011. The Peruvian Defense Minister, Alberto Otárola, rejected Artemio’s pleas to negotiate a military truce and to enter political negotiations. He said that the government does not negotiate with “murderers” (Peru21, January 19).