Maiduguri - Islamic militant leader Abubakar Shekau boasts in a new video that he commanded the October 23rd battle in a provincial capital that killed at least 127 people.
All but two were combatants killed during five hours of fierce fighting in Yobe state capital, Damaturu. It was the first major attack on an urban center in months in the Islamic uprising that has northeastern part of the country in its sixth month of a state of emergency.
It Boko Haram's latest show of strength in the face of a nearly 6-month-long military crackdown in which security forces swiftly freed major urban centers and towns under the sway of the religious extremists. But they have been struggling to hunt the militants down in hideouts believed to be forests and caves and across borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, from which they emerge to attack soft targets like schools and villages. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by Boko Haram in recent weeks.
The video, obtained Monday and dubbed The Battle of Damaturu, shows the bearded Shekau in military camouflage, cradling an AK-47 automatic rifle and speaking in Arabic, Hausa and his native Kanuri as he sings the praises of Allah.
"My brethren, this is the story I want to tell my brothers and the whole world: All this weaponry that you are seeing — it is Allah who gave this to his worshippers who are fighting for Jihad — all this ammunition was obtained in just one place."
The blurry video pans to a masked and armed fighter standing amid hundreds of guns and ammunition belts and scores of boxes — all of which Shekau claims was captured in Damaturu.
He said he does not need to tell the world how many soldiers were killed — implying it was many — and accuses the military of lying about its casualties.
The military says it killed 70 extremists that day in a shootout at a checkpoint just outside Damaturu and that it "neutralized" the attackers, who then regrouped to attack Damaturu, where another 25 were killed. During that fighting, the militants set ablaze four police command posts in different areas of the city and an army barracks on its outskirts. They also looted the hospital's store of medication and took off with two ambulances.
The military says it killed a total of 95 insurgents and lost 22 soldiers and eight police officers. An AP reporter who visited the mortuary counted 17 bodies in police uniform and 31 bodies said to belong to extremists.
The military also claimed two months ago that Shekau "may have been killed" in an attack. When Shekau put out a video to prove he was still alive, the military said it was investigating the video to see if someone was impersonating the leader of the religious extremists.
The fighting at Damaturu overshadowed a major victory in which the military in neighboring Borno state said they bombed two "terrorist camps" and followed through with ground assaults that killed 74 insurgents while two soldiers were wounded.
On Saturday, suspected extremists attacked a wedding convoy on a highway in a rural area of Borno state, with authorities giving conflicting accounts of the death toll ranging from five to as many as 30, including the groom.
Boko Haram's Islamic uprising poses the biggest threat in decades to the security and cohesion of the country, a fractious nation that is Africa's most populous with more than 160 million people almost equally divided between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. The West African country is Africa's biggest oil producer.