Nigerian-based Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to Islamic terrorist group ISIS last week. Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader released an audio message in the style of the terrorist group. It is no surprise to some since Boko Haram had recently begun mimicking the tactics, dress and even videography-style of ISIS. Even their use of social media for propaganda is the same. However, critics are not sure whether this emulation is the genesis of an alliance or if it is how Boko Harma chooses to respond to the increase of military action against them in the area.
Boko Harma made the announcement via an online message through Shekau. In the message, the group made a “spiritually binding oath” that aligns Boko Haram’s more than 6,000 fighters with the wishes of the Islamic State. In the message, the militant group promises to hear and obey ISIS “in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease…” This is similar to how other groups aligned with ISIS in the past. Groups in Libya, Afghanistan and Egypt have done the same; publically pledging allegiance to the group, with ISIS accepting their oath some time later.
Some media outlets had already seen a unity between the two groups, but U.S. intelligence, said that there no accord between them. However Aaron Yelin, a teacher/research fellow at the Washington Institute who studies propaganda in Islamic groups, sees a clear parallel between Boko Harma and ISIS. Boko Haram may simply be joining with ISIS as a way of responding to neighboring countries in the area that are resisting them. In particular, three western African countries are joining forces to fight Boko Haram.
Cameroon, Chad and Niger have together formed a joint offensive to resist the terrorist group. These countries just might be strong enough to push back Boko Haram, even if it aligns with ISIS. Cameroon’s troops were trained in Israel and their soldiers are considered the best in the region. Chad’s military has a long history of fighting. Niger’s backing by the United States, including training with Special Forces, makes them a formidable foe. In comparison, Boko Haram’s joining forces with larger ISIS is seen as a tacit reminder to Nigerians that they are no match for Boko Haram and ISIS combined. Unlike other military armies in the area, Nigeria’s fighter are poorly trained and ill-equipped to fight Boko Haram. Additionally, it is discouraging that Nigerian youth are willingly fleeing to the terrorist group. They are drawn to propaganda from social media and run headlong to ISIS.
Nigeria is the main site of business in the area, with China as one of its biggest trading partner. Additionally, Nigeria’s vast stores of oil appeal to many in and outside of the area, including America. America’s response to Boko Haram’s hostility in the area is to place a seven million dollar price on the head of Shekau. They have also given technical and financial help to shore up Nigerian’s military troops.
People are not sure how ISIS, under the helm of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will respond. After the immolation of the Jordanian pilot, ISIS has few friends in the region. Even their most recent move to release 19 Christians has perplexed people, but has not changed the way they perceive the extreme group. Boko Haram has still not answered to the location of the remaining 276 Nigerian girls that they abducted last year.
By Danielle Branch