There are two important things to know about yesterday’s vexing claim by Chadian President Idriss Deby, that Abubakar Shakau, the leader of Islamic State in West Africa (Boko Haram more popularly), has been replaced by someone named Mahamoud (Mahamat in many press reports) Daoud.
First, measured by civilian deaths, Shakau is more deadly than Osama Bin Ladin. If black lives in Africa really mattered to the U.S. administration, they would not have insisted on such a passive policy over the last year. Instead they would recognize Shakau as a high value intelligence target and try to capture him. Shakau’s death has been falsely rumored before and Deby stopped short of claiming that Daoud took his place due to complete lack of a pulse for Shakau. This raises many questions to say the least. The belief is that Shakau is injured somewhere near Maiduguri.
The second is that Idriss Deby is making the claim and he is one of the most intriguing and poorly understood actors in the region. Without anything on this so-called Mahamat Daoud and little offered by Deby, a good intel analyst would assume it’s an alias at best while scratching their head as to whether it was concocted by Chadian intelligence in order to force a response from Shekau. The only other data point is that this new leader is willing to negotiate. If Shekau can’t communicate with some of his commanders, such a narrative would force him to correct Deby’s claims. Not a bad move.
Freefire blog raised the question as to which regional leaders would make a name, and thus a potential counter terrorism partner, for themselves in challenging Boko Haram earlier this year. The cost that comes with stepping up against Boko Haram is that Chad has become increasingly targeted since their military envoy set out into the forests of Northern Nigeria and drove Boko Haram out, also earlier this year.