In an audio recording released online on Saturday Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group from Nigeria, formally pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State. The statement, made a by a man thought to be Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian movement, came only a few hours after a series of suicide bombings in the town of Maiduguri left more than 200 casualties, killing at least 54 people.
In the message addressed to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the commander of ISIS and self-proclaimed “Caliph”, the man says that Boko Haram announces their “allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah.” The recording, which goes on for about eight minutes, was published on a Twitter account frequently used by Boko Haram and includes subtitles in English, French and Arabic.
Among the main reasons invoked, Shekau named Islamic religious duty as most important. The close collaboration between the Nigerian terrorist group and the Islamic State first became obvious last year, when Boko Haram seized control of the town of Gwoza in Borno state from Nigerian authorities, announcing it as part of the Caliphate. More recent, the President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan released a statement last month the country holds intelligence assets proving the link between ISIS and Boko Haram.
It is not easy to evaluate the relevance of the statement or its immediate effects on the region. Aaron Zelin, a Sunni jihadist specialist, assessed it is important because it shows the propaganda effects of Al-Baghdadi self-coronation as religious leader. “For years there have been rumors of connections with Al-Qaeda or Al-Shabab but there was never anything definitive… and now Boko Haram decides to do this overtly,” he explained.
There hasn’t been an official reply from ISIS yet. Although experts say the Nigerian Islamist group is one of the strongest to support the Islamic State so far, it controls an area remote from ISIS’s own headquarters. This may prove as an opportunity for the Iraqi based movement to extend it’s reach to regions where it hasn’t exercised any influence in the past.
Years ago, Boko Haram also attempted to tie closer relations with Al-Qaeda, but its leader was strongly criticized by the group formerly led by Osama bin-Laden. According to the media, officials in the U.S. intelligence are still suggesting that it may not prove easy for an African group to join ISIS, given that Arabs will not see African people “as equivalent to them.” Still, the Islamic State leadership seems more prone to accepting Shekau’s volatile personality and ignore his lack of Islamic knowledge.
Boko Haram wreaked havoc on a Nigerian town in the northeastern part of the country in a series of suicide bombings on Saturday, killing over 50 people and leaving at least 150 others wounded. According to a recent announcement from the Niger government, a joint military operation by Niger and Chad was launched in northeastern Nigeria against Boko Haram. This comes shortly after an African Union summit on Friday, who sanctioned the idea in order “to prevent the spread of Boko Haram activities and other terrorist groups” in Western and Central Africa.
Image Source: Arab News
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