This file screengrab made on January 15, 2018, from a video released the same day by Islamist militant group Boko Haram shows Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau Photograph:( AFP )
Shekau's critical injury or death would be a blow to his Boko Haram faction which has already been weakened by military air strikes on its bases and defections among his men
Nigerian Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has been seriously injured as he tried to kill himself to avoid getting caught, said AP quoting two intelligence sources. Shekau was avoiding capture during clashes with rival Islamic State jihadists in northern parts of Nigeria.
Shekau's Boko Haram faction and fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province had been battling in northeastern Borno state, where ISWAP militants have become the dominant force in Nigeria's more than decade-long jihadist insurgency.
Shekau made international headlines in 2014 when his men abducted 300 schoolgirls in Chibok. He has been previously been reported dead several times.
After a series of clashes, Shekau and some of his fighters were surrounded on Wednesday by ISWAP jihadists in Boko Haram's Sambisa forest stronghold, where they demanded he surrender, one intelligence source said.
"To avoid capture, Shekau shot himself in the chest and the bullet pierced his shoulder," the source said, adding: "He was badly injured."
Some of his men managed to escape with him to an unknown destination, the source added.
A second intelligence source said Shekau was critically wounded after detonating explosives in the house where he was holed up with his men.
"We are investigating," Nigeria's army spokesman Mohammed Yerima told AFP by text, asked about those reports.
Shekau's critical injury or death would be a blow to his Boko Haram faction which has already been weakened by military air strikes on its bases and defections among his men.
More than 40,000 people have been killed and over two million displaced from their homes by the conflict in northeast Nigeria, and fighting has spread to parts of neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Boko Haram and ISWAP have fought battles for control of territory in the past.
(With inputs from agencies)