Boko Haram Pledges Support To ISIS

Boko Haram Nigerian Schoolgirls

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.

FILED UNDER: Africa, National Security, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    This is just PR.

    It would be great if Americans would stop reacting to what are in effect just crude media manipulations: hostage killing, atrocities, pledges of allegiance, threats, destruction of archeological sites and the rest. We are being baited. It is obvious, isn’t it, that ISIS is trying to bait the west into intervening more directly? Mr. Obama has correctly refused to play the trout.

    Let’s review. ISIS began by differentiating itself from Al Qaeda and the rest by proclaiming a “caliphate,” to include actual, physical territory, with the promise of expansion to encompass the entire middle east. Now their expansion has stopped. They are in a geographical box. They’ve lost to the Kurds and now the Shia militias are coming after them. The “caliphate” is shrinking.

    Having failed to expand their caliphate, ISIS is now looking to franchise and hoping we won’t notice that they’ve failed. Instead of various groups of loons pledging allegiance to Bin Laden, they’re pledging allegiance to ISIS, because people like Boko Haram are equally desperate to seem big and scary. Big and scary equals recruitment and cash. The biggest, scariest thing BH can say is, “We’re ISIS.”

    Still baiting hooks. Obama still waving them off. Republicans desperate to give ISIS what it wants. What really matters right now is that Shia militias are closing in on Tikrit. How they behave toward Sunnis there is infinitely more important than BH pledging whatever it is they think they’re pledging.

  2. Slugger says:

    These consolidations are just too much. I want my small local independent terrorist groups back. I will be forced to go to Whole Foods to get my free range organic murderers!
    Seriously, are there any adverse consequences to this action? Will they be able to get better rates on buying AK-47’s? When it is said that this does not bode well, what are the bad things that are coming?
    I hope I don’t sound too irritable, but everything in all media is always full of stuff that is horrible, worst thing ever, turn the alarm up to eleven! I reached max freak out stage with Ebola and am having trouble being worried since.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    Still baiting hooks. Obama still waving them off. Republicans desperate to give ISIS what it wants.

    Can you imagine what it would be like if the Bush crowd were still running things? Some who claim there is little difference between Obama/Clinton and the GOP would do well to note this difference…

  4. JohnMcC says:

    How long before Sen Graham and Sen McCain are demanding American boots be placed on Nigerian ground? Because freedom!

  5. Argon says:

    Graham is giving birth to kittens as we speak.

  6. munchbox says:

    Republicans desperate to give ISIS what it wants.

    Can you imagine what it would be like if the Bush crowd were still running things?

    i can imagine this wouldn’t be happening…

  7. michael reynolds says:


    Because tough Republicans and all? Like the tough Republicans who let 9-11 happen? The tough Republicans who lost Afghanistan so they could divert forces to Iraq, which they also lost? How about the toughest of all tough Republicans who let Beirut happen and then rewarded Iran for pulling the trigger on 241 Marines? Or the tough Republicans who let North Korea go nuclear?

    Republicans aren’t tough, they’re just stupid. Deadly stupid.

  8. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: I love that you read this article and thought that it was about President Obama and the Republicans. How about the coffee article? Obama and the Republicans too? The tribble caption contest?

  9. michael reynolds says:

    It’s about ISIS and by extension US foreign policy. What are you in about?

  10. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: “crude media manipulations” – look at these recent headliners: “ISIS Influence Increasing”, “ISIS Destroying Antiquities” “ISIS Wins Major Battle “, “ISIS Throws People Off Building”, “ISIS Recruiting In US” . Watching some news channels would have one thinking that ISIS is the second coming of the Third Reich !

  11. JohnMcC says:

    Washington Post headline this morning: Islamic State Fraying From Within. Long article with citations of eye witnesses who explain that there have been gunfights between ‘foreign fighters’ and Syrian conscripts into the DAESH armed forces. Says that most of the ‘foreign fighters’ are useless as soldiers and have a strong preference to sitting around cafes in Raqqa to actually fighting.

    Pretty much confirms the intuitive conclusions made by our Mr Reynolds.

  12. michael reynolds says:


    The map never liked ISIS. They were surrounded and needed to break out. The only winning move I could see was against Saudi Arabia and they missed their moment on that. (A guerrilla/terror attack inside the KSA or Jordan is still likely but unless their intelligence services are riddled with traitors it won’t work.) Failing a break-out, they were going to be nibbled to death from all sides.

    A lot was made of foreign fighters but their only use is as terrorists back in their home countries. Mentally-unbalanced teenagers and assorted losers do not make good soldiers. That was all window dressing, as were the beheadings and hostage dramas. What mattered was that ISIS could not hold the Mosul dam, could not take Kobane, could not move on Baghdad, could not keep their supply lines open. The myth of ISIS invincibility was vital to them, and a handful of peshmerga put an end to that.

    Proof of ISIS weakness is clear in the Iranian/Shiite move on Tikrit. No one starts a fight like that without air power unless they’re pretty darned confident. Iran and the militias at least don’t think much of ISIS. This is now the great danger for US policy, not that ISIS is so strong, but that they are so weak they’ve created a power vacuum into which Iran will flow.

    But then again, that’s probably been inevitable since Mr. Bush botched the occupation of Iraq.

  13. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: An average person would be able to read the article and think about Boko Haram and ISIS. An, um, extremely focused person would read the article and think it’s about Obama and the Republicans. An extremely focused person would read the article and reach the conclusion you did, or its opposite. The origin of the word “‘fan” is “fanatic”. A fan sees every play as proof that his team’s the best, or that his team was robbed by the refs. Even plays in other games. This article doesn’t offer any guidance for foreign policy, but you read it to do so, and of course you read it as an endorsement of your side’s approach. I’ve got to laugh at that every once in a while.

    As I see it, both of these groups are committed to barbarity, in their specific regions. It’s doubtful that either one will act differently based on this pledge of support, at least in terms of the outrages that they commit. It’s important to understand them, and this story allows us to understand them both a little better. But to draw the conclusions you did, well, it’s like making assumptions about whether or not the ref made a bad call based on whether or not it favored your team. There’s no learning involved.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    Utter nonsense.

    Nonsense to pretend that a foreign policy article involving our current enemy #1 does not involve Mr. Obama and the Republicans.

    So far, as McC is kind enough to point out, I seem to be doing very well in analyzing the military situation with ISIS. It’s not a guess, it’s not about assumptions. It’s about power and geography, and about knowing something of the history and politics of the region, and knowing something about humans.

    It’s been crashingly obvious that ISIS is trying to bait us into a ground war, just as it is crashingly obvious that Republicans like McCain and Graham are desperate to snap at that bait for reasons that defy logic.

    I know it’s hard for you, but face it: Obama is right about this. Your boys are wrong. Again.

    And if you pay attention over the next six months I suspect you’ll see Republicans doing their usual dishonest shuffle, moving the goalposts and pretending this was never about ISIS.

  15. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: I had reached the same conclusion about DAESH as you did but in the slow, read-all-the-long-form-journalism way that works for me. By the time I was prepared to paint the full picture you’d already stolen all the oxygen out of that room. So good on ya’, mate.

    I would add that what I have learned in my slow, read-it-all method is that the foreign policy implications of the Shia/Sunni divide makes the middle east a much more troublesome place for us than I think we knew only a few years ago.

    Our real objective there is to manage the world’s oil traffic. Without petroleum the area would hold the same interest to us that East Timor does. Our present course has us making de facto actions that seem to reasonable Arabs to favor the Shia. This could lead us to real difficulties.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Yeah, that’s what’s so worrying about this Tikrit move. That’s Saddam’s home town and ISIS is largely old Baathists from Saddam days. I have a hard time imagining that Shia militias coming up out of Baghdad are going to show a lot of restraint.

    In fact, depending on Iran’s calculus it might make sense for them to be very nasty. Teheran may want this to become overtly, unmistakably Shiite on Sunni because that edges us out of the game. Why else would they time it to cock-block the Iraqi army (our team) move against Mosul?

    It seems like we’re the only ones trying to keep Iraq whole and independent. I rather doubt we will succeed. We’ll get our nuke deal, they’ll get most of Iraq, Assad will survive and the two of them will slowly grind the Sunnis (ISIS or whoever) between them. I have that back-of-the-neck feeling that the Persian rug merchants may have just outwitted us. I’ll tell you one thing, I think those boys are one hell of a lot smarter than the idiots running ISIS.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    I’ve got to laugh at that every once in a while.

    Perhaps you will also get a laugh from the fact that you were chastising Michael for bringing domestic politics to this discussion when he wasn’t even the one who did that…he was merely responding to what someone else wrote…

    It’s been crashingly obvious that ISIS is trying to bait us into a ground war…

    Well, bin Laden and al-Qaeda tried the same thing and they certainly achieved that goal very well indeed…

  18. Pinky says:

    @An Interested Party: Huh? Michael was the first one to comment. The article didn’t mention US policy. Michael did. His first comment framed the article in terms of US foreign policy.

  19. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: I just checked the original Times article. No mention of US foreign policy.

  20. michael reynolds says:


    Are you retarded? ISIS and Boko Haram are involved and you think it’s irrelevant to US foreign policy? You are aware we’re bombing ISIS, right? You are aware Republican hawks want a land war with them, right?

  21. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: Did I say it’s irrelevant to US policy? I said the article wasn’t about US policy. No mention of US policy.

  22. michael reynolds says:


    So because they didn’t say the words “US foreign policy” this article has no relevance to US foreign policy?

    If there was an article saying Germany wanted out of NATO that didn’t mention US foreign policy, you’d think we had no business talking about that? How about articles that talk about Ukraine and Russia? How about articles that talk about Japan and China? Do you not understand the concept of foreign policy?

    This is way beyond your usual level of dumb. And dude, when you’re in a hole, stop digging. You said something dumb. And now you’re tripling down on it. It’s not going to get less stupid.