A video of some men suspected to be members of the Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram in Niger state has surfaced online.
The footage shows about 100 persons observing the Eid Al-Adha prayer in an undisclosed bushy area.
While the date of the video is unknown, Eid Al-Adha was celebrated by Muslim faithful across the globe on July 31.
After the prayers, three of the supposed insurgents sent Eid greetings in Hausa, English, and Fulfulde.
“It is we the Jamahatu Ali Sunna li Dawatul Jihad in the location of Niger State. We want to send our Sallah salutation, first of all to our imam, Abu Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Abubakar Shekau,” said one of the men dressed in a Nigerian police uniform.
The insurgent group has held sway in the north-east and north-west for over a decade. The claim of its presence in Niger, a north-central state, is a new development and indication that it may be spreading to the region.
Bulama Bukarti, an analyst and human rights lawyer who shared the development on Twitter, said: “This video, if genuine, is further evidence that BH has expanded to the north-central.”
“The dense forest there is a perfect haven for terrorists and if the group is able to consolidate its presence in Niger, it can easily target Abuja as well as to other states like Kwara and Kogi.”
He also expressed concern that the insurgents may have killed some military officers and taken possession of their uniforms.
“It’s interesting that two of the fighters were respectively wearing Nigerian military & police uniforms. This indicates that they might’ve recently killed security forces and got their uniforms. This is because in their past video, the only speaker from Niger was in mufti,” he said.
South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies recently reported that Boko Haram is extending its reach from north-east Nigeria into the country’s north-west.
It added that the terrorists are taking advantage of old and new local conflicts and insecurities to further embed themselves in the area through violent extremism.