Just days after Chad's president claimed that the Islamist militant group Boko Haram had a new leader who was ready to negotiate, the supposedly dead Abubakar Shekau has lashed back, saying he is still alive and in charge.
In an audio message released on social media in Hausa, a man, purportedly Shekau, called Chadian president Idriss Deby a "hypocrite" and a "tyrant."
"It is indeed all over the global media of infidels that I am dead or that I am sick and incapacitated and have lost influence in the affairs of religion," he said.
"It should be understood that this is false. This is indeed a lie. If it were true, my voice wouldn't have been heard, now that I am speaking."
Last Wednesday Deby announced that the Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram had a new commander who was willing to negotiate with the Nigerian government. This fueled speculation the extremist group's previous commander has been killed.
Rumors of Shekau's death had grown following a few straight months without Boko Haram releasing videos featuring him.
"There is somebody apparently called Mahamat Daoud who is said to have replaced Shekau, and he wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government," Deby said in comments broadcast by Chad state radio. He did not say where the information came from.
"I would not advise negotiating with a terrorist," said Deby, though he himself apparently led one failed attempt to do so last year. Other attempts under Nigeria's previous government also failed, partly because the group is believed fractured into several factions.
New Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said his government is open to talks, but also would pursue the military option.
Deby said a five-nation regional army based in Chad's capital, N'Djamena, would be deployed in days and predicted it would destroy Boko Haram by the end of the year. He said the group already has been "decapitated."
Chadian troops earlier this year helped drive the insurgents out of northeastern Nigerian towns where they had declared an "Islamic caliphate" and prosecuted strict Sharia law. But hundreds have died in suicide bombings and village attacks in recent months. The six-year-old Islamic uprising has killed 20,000 people and spilled across Nigeria's borders.
Speaking about the rumors surrounding Shekau, Chris Ngwodo, a political analyst based in Nigeria, told VICE News: "At this moment, the true situation is unknown. Shekau is thought to have been killed three times before by Nigerian security forces. A bit of scepticism and a wait-and-see attitude wouldn't [go] amiss. We need to time to verify the transition and if it means anything significant for Boko Haram."
Last Tuesday, a bomb blast in a northeastern Nigerian village killed at least 24 people and Cameroonian troops repelled an invasion on a border town by hundreds of Boko Haram fighters who crossed the border.
Suicide bombings in Chad killed dozens in three attacks in June and July on the capital, N'Djamena.
The latest news comes as Nigeria's police force begins a national security summit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report