Boko Haram Pledges Allegiance to ISMarch 10, 2015 in Nigeria
In an audio message posted online Saturday, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group. The statement comes on the same day as three bombs exploded in northeastern Nigeria and comes as both militant groups are increasingly under pressure from regional forces.
Boko Haram Claims Allegiance
In the audio message, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau stated “we announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims, Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Husseini al-Qurashi,” referring to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Shekau also called on “…Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the caliph.” The eight-minute speech, in which Shekau is not shown, was posted on a Twitter account that is used by Boko Haram and subtitled in English, French and Arabic. The move of pledging allegiance is no surprise however it comes at a time when Boko Haram is under growing pressure as regional forces have been targeting towns and villages under the militant group’s control. Furthermore, the announcement can be seen as an almost desperate move by an Islamist group attempting to remain relevant as it increasingly looses territory in northeastern Nigeria.
While Shekau had previously mentioned al-Baghdadi in video messages, until now he stopped short of pledging formal allegiance; however there have been increasing signs that the militant group has been seeking closer ties with IS. Last year, months after IS grabbed control of swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq, and announced the establishment of a caliphate, Shekau announced that the captured town of Gwoza, in Borno state, was part of a caliphate. In recent weeks, Boko Haram has also been increasingly producing videos that resemble IS group propaganda. This includes a video that was released last week, which purported to show the beheading of two men. This video demonstrates that the militant group is increasingly seeking inspiration from global militant networks, including IS.
While it is difficult to assess the immediate effect of Shekau’s statement, the announcement of an allegiance comes as both militant groups are increasingly being targeted by regional forces.
Boko Haram’s announcement comes as the militant group has been forced out of their captured territory by the Nigerian army and regional allies, a move that has forced the militant group to return to its previous campaign of urban guerrilla warfare. Similarly, while IS seized territory across Iraq and Syria last year, its expansion in its core territories has been stalled by local forces that have been backed by the United States. The announcement of allegiance is something that both groups need at the moment and will likely aid them in raising morale amongst their fighters and garner further global attention. For Boko Haram legitimacy will likely help its commanders in recruiting, funding and logistics as the militant group seeks to expand its operations in West Africa, particularly into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad. In turn, IS receives more legitimacy as a global caliphate. However the allegiance between Boko Haram and IS will only be official when an IS leader, such as spokesman Abu Mohammed al Adnani, issues a statement – a move that may occur in the coming days.
Boko Haram Attacks Maiduguri
Early Saturday, four bomb blasts killed at least fifty-eight people in the northeastern city of Maiduguri in what was the worst attack since Boko Haram attempted to seized the town in two major assaults earlier this year. Female suicide bomber are believed to have acted for the group, launching a series of attacks in markets while another attack was reported at a bus station.
On Saturday, a woman with explosives strapped to her body blew herself up at about 11:20 am (1020 GMT) at Baga fish market in the Borno state capital city, Maiduguri. About an hour later, another blast targeted the Post Office shopping area, which is located near the market. A further series of bombs targeted the popular Monday Market, causing chaos as locals voiced anger at security forces who struggled to control the scene. Just after 1:00 pm, a fourth blast targeted a used car lot, which is located next to the busy Borno Express bus terminal. In a fifth incident, a car bomb exploded at a military checkpoint 75 kilometres outside the city. A soldier and two members of a civilian defence unit were injured. Sources have reported that the attack had wanted to reach Maiduguri.
The fear of further attacks prompted the closure of all businesses in Maiduguri. Sources have indicated that the second and third attacks were also carried out by suicide bombers however police officials have not provided any details. Borno’s police commissioner Clement Adoba indicated that the death toll stood at 58 “for the three locations” and 143 wounded, however officials have warned that the death toll is likely to rise over the coming days. Borno state’s Justice Commissioner Kaka Shehu has blamed the attack on Boko Haram, stating that it is a response to the defeats that they have suffered in recent weeks.