Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African and Eurasian Affairs at the Jamestown Foundation, told ABC News that Shekau is “both evil and intelligent” and enjoys the attention that comes from painting himself as a madman.
“[Shekau] relishes in this spotlight because he continues to show up on videos and taunt Barack Obama and other world leaders and Nigerian leaders and Islamic leaders,” Zenn said. “He knows that the media around the world is portraying him this way, but it gives him a further pulpit or platform to convey his message in a paradoxical way.”
Though ostensibly aiming for the establishment of a large Islamic state in Africa, Bruton said that Boko Haram’s justification for violence has always been vague and she considers Shekau’s followers to be mostly made up of “rowdy, unemployed, African youth who are looking for a target for their grievances and they’re lashing out at anyone available.”
The State Department’s recently released 2013 Country Report on Terrorism said Nigerian President Jonathan declared a State of Emergency for several Nigerian states in which Boko Haram operates but “despite the drastic measures, BH [Boko Haram] has continued to conduct a spate of attacks…”
“Their atrocities keep getting worse and worse,” Bruton said.
Amnesty International reported that more than 1,500 people were killed in the first three months of 2014 alone “amid fighting between Nigerian security forces and Islamist armed groups.”
Boko Haram is seen by U.S. officials as mostly a regional threat, but in June of 2012 General Carter Ham, the former head of the U.S. military’s AFRICOM said there was evidence that Boko Haram, al-Shabaab in Somalia and AQIM – the last two formal al Qaeda affiliates who have threatened to strike the U.S. -- were sharing money, explosives and guns, and have trained fighters together.
"Each of those three organizations is by itself a dangerous and worrisome threat," Ham said at the African Centre for Strategic Studies. "What really concerns me is the indications that the three organizations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts – in other words, to establish a cooperative effort amongst the three most violent organizations.”