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Boko Haram leader claims bombing, stays mum on kidnapped schoolgirls

By Vladimir Duthiers, Chelsea J. Carter and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: In a video, Boko Haram claims responsibility for a bombing at a bus station
  • NEW: But the leader of the group says nothing about its kidnapping of 129 schoolgirls
  • Government: 45 school girls are free, the fate of the rest is unknown
  • The abduction is being blamed on the Islamist militant group Boko Haram

Abuja, Nigeria (CNN) -- Boko Haram's elusive leader claimed responsibility for a bombing in Nigeria's capital of Abuja that left dozens dead, but said nothing about the group's reported mass abduction of schoolgirls that occurred the same day as the explosion.

A man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau made the comments in a video posted online on Saturday, saying the group attacked a bus station in retaliation for the what he described as the government's collusion with the United States in the killing of Muslims.

"This is a prelude," said the man, who wore camouflage and held an AK-47 assault rifle, in the video.

In a warning to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the man said: "Let me be blunt: I am in your city, near you. Find me."

A video of Abubakar Shekau, who claims to be the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, is shown on September 25, 2013. Boko Haram is an Islamist militant group waging a campaign of violence in northern Nigeria. The group's ambitions range from the stricter enforcement of Sharia law to the total destruction of the Nigerian state and its government. Click through to see recent bloody incidents in this strife-torn West African nation: A video of Abubakar Shekau, who claims to be the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, is shown on September 25, 2013. Boko Haram is an Islamist militant group waging a campaign of violence in northern Nigeria. The group's ambitions range from the stricter enforcement of Sharia law to the total destruction of the Nigerian state and its government. Click through to see recent bloody incidents in this strife-torn West African nation:
Boko Haram: Nigeria's crisis
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Boko Haram: Nigeria\'s crisis Boko Haram: Nigeria's crisis
Nigerian officials: 200 girls abducted
Boko Haram 'increasingly monstrous'

Mass abduction

The video surfaced the same day that an education official said a Nigerian schoolgirl, who was among the 129 kidnapped Monday by suspected Boko Haram militants, had returned home.

Even so, 84 of the girl's classmates remain unaccounted for.

A total of 45 girls are now free, according to a statement from Borno State Education Commissioner Musa Inuwa Kulo.

This still unsettled situation began Monday night, when militants engaged in a battle with guards at the Government Girls Secondary School in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok began herding the girls onto buses and trucks and drove off, authorities said.

But some of the schoolgirls managed subsequently to escape, including 14 on Friday and others on previous days, according to Kulo.

This is a far cry from the Defense Ministry's previous report that all but eight of the girls had found freedom, a claim that Nigeria's military retracted Thursday.

This retraction spurred fervent criticism of the government, with Lawan Zanna -- the father of one of the students -- blasting it as having resorted to "blatant propaganda" by making a "blatant lie."

What is Boko Haram?

While the mass abduction is extraordinary, violence in the region has been on the rise.

That violence was on display Monday when a bomb exploded at the bus station in Abuja during rush hour, killing at least 75 people and wounding more than 100.

But nowhere has it been more prevalent that in northeastern Nigeria's Borno, Yobe and Adamawa provinces, which have been under a state of emergency since mid-May due to persistent bloodshed there the government blames on Boko Haram.

The Islamist militant group -- who name means "Western education is sin" in the local Hausa language -- has bombed schools, churches and mosques; kidnapped women and children; and assassinated politicians and religious leaders alike.

Boko Haram says its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Africa's most populous nation, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch claims more than 3,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence in the past five years.

Explosion kills dozens in Nigeria
Up to 200 girls kidnapped by terrorists
Abubakar Shekau is the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria. A reward up to $7 million has been offered by the U.S. government. Abubakar Shekau is the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria. A reward up to $7 million has been offered by the U.S. government.
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Who is Shekau?

Under Shekau, who took control of the group in 2009, violence carried out by the group has flourished, according to authorities.

Questions have swirled about Shekau, including whether he's dead or alive. In recent years, the Nigerian military has touted his death, only to retract its claim after he appeared alive and vibrant in propaganda videos.

He uses the alias Darul Tawheed, and analysts describe him as a ruthless loner and master of disguise.

The United States has put a $7 million bounty on Shekau's head. It also designated Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist network last year.

The group is diffuse, and Skekau does not speak directly with members, opting to communicate through a few select confidants. This may be why Shekau made no mention of the kidnapping of the schoolgirls.

CNN's Faith Karimi and journalist Aminu Abubakar in Kano contributed to this report.

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