LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The leader of a radical Islamist sect has threatened the wives of Nigerian security agents and government officials in a new Internet video, while denying his group is in any peace talks to end the violence that has killed hundreds in the country's north.
In a video uploaded Sunday to YouTube, Abubakar Shekau also denied claims that the spokesman for the sect known as Boko Haram had been killed by Nigeria's military. He said the group would continue to "follow our religion" and carry out attacks in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north.
The Associated Press could not immediately authenticate the video Monday, but it appeared to be from the sect and followed the pattern of other videos previously released by the group. In it, Shekau appears relaxed, wearing a checkered red-and-white Keffiyeh scarf. A Kalashnikov assault rifle leans against the wall behind him.
Speaking in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, Shekau said that the nation's military and security agencies have seized 10 women who are wives of Boko Haram members. He claimed the women had been raped by the captors, though he did not elaborate on how he knew that. Those arrested by police in Nigeria often face torture, sexual abuse and the potential of being killed "extrajudicially," human rights groups have repeatedly charged.
At one point in the video, Shekau laughed and said: "You should wait and see what's going to happen to your own wives."
Shekau repeatedly denied that the group is in peace talks with Nigeria's weak central government and promised more attacks. Officials representing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan have made that claim several times in recent weeks, but the only attempt at talks through intermediaries failed several months ago when details leaked out in local newspaper reports.
The sect leader also claimed that the group's spokesman, known by the nom de guerre Abul Qaqa, was still alive. Shekau did not give any details on that claim, which comes after soldiers in Nigeria's north said they killed the spokesman and another of the sect's operational leaders outside of the city of Kano.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in Hausa, has been blamed for killing more than 690 people this year alone, according to an AP count. The group wants the federal government to release its imprisoned members and implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, which is largely divided into a Christian south and a Muslim north.
The timing of the video's release coincides with the celebration Monday of Nigeria's Independence Day. Speaking earlier on state-run broadcasters, President Jonathan told the nation that Nigeria had "refused to be broken by sectarian crises."
"Our security agencies are constantly being strengthened and repositioned for greater efficiency," Jonathan said. However, Nigeria's military and police remain almost daily targets of the sect's guerrilla insurgency.
On Monday in Maiduguri, the spiritual home of Boko Haram, a bomb targeting a military patrol vehicle exploded in the northeastern city. A witness later told the AP he saw one dead soldier and several others injured in the blast. A military spokesman confirmed the attack happened, but declined to immediately provide details about it.
Meanwhile, another bomb exploded at mobile phone tower in Maiduguri. Boko Haram recently claimed responsibility for the destruction of more than 30 of the phone towers across Nigeria's north, which has created communications chaos in a nation that relies on mobile phones.
Associated Press writer Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria, contributed to this report.