Boko Haram Pledges Support To ISIS
Boko Haram, the Islamist terror group that has been a problem in Nigeria for several years now, has apparently pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State:
With thousands of fighters and some parts of northeastern Nigeria under its control, Boko Haram is believed to be the largest jihadi group to pledge fidelity to the Islamic State. But terrorism experts say that the practical significance of the move announced Saturday is as yet unclear.
Some experts say that the pledge, or “bayat,” made by the leader of Boko Haram is a spiritually binding oath, which indicates that the Nigerian Islamist group has agreed to accept the authority of the Islamic State.
But as with similar pledges to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by other extremist groups, there are few details about how much direct control the Islamic State leaders have over their distant proxies.
If confirmed, the agreement with Boko Haram would mirror the steps taken by Islamic State affiliates in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Afghanistan and beyond. In each case, a group’s leaders swore allegiance in a public message posted online. Weeks later, the oath was formally accepted by the Islamic State, in a statement issued by the group’s spokesman.
“It’s quite clear that since at least mid-January, the Islamic State has had some level of connection with Boko Haram,” said Aaron Y. Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute who tracks propaganda by Islamic extremists. “The key question is whether the Islamic State dispatched individuals from Syria or Iraq, or else from Libya, down to northern Nigeria to help out with operations on the ground, or else with methodology, or in terms of governance activities.”
Boko Haram is estimated to have up to 6,000 fighters and at least some level of control over about 20,000 square kilometers, or about 8,000 square miles, of northeastern Nigeria, according to Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst for red24, a crisis management group based in Britain, who has been following the group since 2011. Mr. Cummings raised questions about the kind of command-and-control structure that could exist between the two groups.
“It seems at the moment that this is a statement that is akin to saying, ‘We are on the same page,’ ” he said. “But the biggest issue with Boko Haram is that it’s not a homogeneous group and it behaves as different factions. So it’s too early to tell for sure if Boko Haram will fall directly under ISIS command, and to what extent they will act as an ISIS proxy.”
We’ve already see ISIS extend its reach into northern Africa thanks to the chaos in Libya. Whether or not this means that its influence will now extend south into Nigeria remains to be seen, but this doesn’t bode well.