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African press review 25 September 2014

There's confusion in Nigeria over the alleged death of Boko Haram's leader, although its now clear that the missing schoolgirls have not been freed. Zuma is reported to have run up a big bill on travel to the UN. And China wins a big construction contract in Namibia.


What is going on in Nigeria?

According to the front page of this morning's Lagos-based Guardian newspaper, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Islamist armed group Boko Haram, has been confirmed killed by the Nigerian military. He is reported dead in a battle which also claimed the lives of about 135 other sect members.

The Guardian publishes two front-page pictures, released by the military authorities yesterday, one showing Shekau when he was alive, the other an undated photograph, allegedly of his corpse with a bullet wound to the head. Which all seems clear enough, until you start reading the article.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

The Guardian reports that, at a news briefing yesterday evening in Abuja, Director of Defence Information Major General Chris Olukolade said that in a series of battles around the town of Konduga, one Mohammed Bashir, who has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, was killed.

Olukolade went on to say that inhabitants of the local community who were victims of terrorist activities corroborated information on the identity of Bashir Mohammed, alias Abubakar Shekau, alias Abacha Abdullahi Geidam.

The problem is that the Nigerian military have already killed Abubakar Shekau at least once before, in a battle in 2009. So was the dead Bashir Mohammed actually leading the terrorist group or was he simply an impostor?

The main headline in sister paper Punch at least acknowledges the difficulty.

"Military kills Abubakar Shekau ‘again’," says Punch, explaining that the defence authorities have confirmed the killing of the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, during one of the four encounters with insurgents in Kodunga, Borno State, between 12 and 17 September.

Punch goes on to quote the same Director of Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, as saying that the corpse of the insurgents’ leader was identified by the people of Kodunga, which is presumably the same town as the one the Guardian calls Konduga.

He said that Shekau whose real name was Mohammed Bashir, had used other names like Abacha Abdullahi Geidam and Damasack.

Olukolade illustrated the defence authorities claim with pictures of the bullet-ridden corpse of Shekau and a video of the battle in which he was killed.

And then things get really complicated.

Four days ago, the Cameroon Concord newspaper reported that Cameroonian troops killed Shekau during a cross-border aerial bombardment of his hideout in Nigeria last Saturday. They had photos of a corpse, too.

At the same press conference yesterday, the director of defence information said that an online report issued on Tuesday suggesting that the Chibok schoolgirls, kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters 164 days ago, had been released was false.

The Lagos-based daily This Day does, however, report the return of one of the 219 girls abducted by the Boko Haram sect from Government Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State last April. She was found by the police in the early hours of yesterday in Mubi, Adamawa State, two days after she was thrown off a truck by her captors, said to have been fleeing Nigerian army units.

South Africa's financial paper BusinessDay reports that President Jacob Zuma used a chartered plane to travel to the US for the UN General Assembly. This was confirmed by the Department of Defence on Tuesday with the explanation that the official presidential aircraft is on a scheduled maintenance service and is therefore not available.

The department did not say how much the flight would cost. The South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Tuesday that the it was more than 400,000 euros.

On its African business pages the Johannesburg-based paper reports that Namibia has picked China’s Shanghai Electric to build a one-billion-euro gas-fired power plant. German company Siemens is to supply generators and turbines.

The project in south-western Namibia will use gas from the Kudu field about 170km offshore.

The plant will supply the Namibian and South African electricity grids.

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