Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is absent from gruesome propaganda video

Shekau is usually at the forefront of propaganda released by the group

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The Independent Online

Speculation is mounting over the fate of Abubakar Shekau, the infamous leader of Boko Haram, after he failed to appear in a gruesome propaganda video released by the militant group.

A ten-minute video purporting to show Boko Haram fighters was circulated on social media websites on Tuesday. In it, an unidentified figure accuses Nigeria and Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which have formed a coalition to tackle the group, of lying about reclaiming territory from almost 20 districts.

But the figure in the video claims: "Most of our territory is still under control. Whoever believes that the Nigerian army has defeated us.... know that we have battled against them and killed them."

Boko Haram has massacred thousands and displaced over one million people in its bid to create an Islamic caliphate across the northeast of Nigeria. It recently adopted the name “Islamic State’s West Africa Province” after pledging allegiance to Isis.

Corpses are visible in the video, along with footage of a what the group suggested was wreckage of a Nigerian jet. The film could not be independently verified.

Shekau's unexplained absence has led to discussions over whether he may be hurt, dead, or has even been replaced as leader. The BBC described the failure to mention him in the video as unusual and said this omission could be a sign of divisions within the group, or evidence that Shekau has gone into hiding.