In an audio message published Saturday on the Twitter account of Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the terrorists pledged allegiance to another group of terrorists: the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria, according to the Huffington Post.
The recording features a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abu Bakr Shekau pledging support to the group, also known as ISIS, and says the militants will “hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity,” the report notes.
The authenticity of the recording is still being ascertained, but the New York Times says that if it is true, it’s unclear how much control ISIS would actually hold over its distant proxy.
“It’s quite clear that since at least mid-January, the Islamic State has had some level of connection with Boko Haram,” Aaron Y. Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute who tracks propaganda by Islamic extremists, tells the Times. “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 believed to be 6,000 strong and holds sway over about 8,000 square miles of northeastern Nigeria, writes the Times, quoting Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst for red24, a crisis-management group based in Britain, who has been following the group since 2011.
The outcome of the pledge is uncertain because ISIS seeks world dominance and Boko Haram is focused mostly on Nigeria. An American intelligence agent tells the Times the move might be a publicity stunt because Boko Haram, which practiced beheadings and enslavement before ISIS, is unlikely to take orders from the Islamic State.
But there are also signs that it could be real. The Times notes that “for about 18 months, there have been growing signs of at least links of solidarity between the organizations, as well as suggestions that the Islamic State has been grooming Boko Haram for entry into its network.”