Despite the fear that has emanated from Boko Haram’s apparent “pledge of allegiance” to the radical Islamic State (ISIS), an analyst has suggested the move shows weakness on the part of the Nigerian-based group. Boko Haram unsurprisingly announced its support for the extremist entity, commonly called ISIS, after months of statements in appraisal of the group. ISIS has in the past year pushed itself to the forefront of global extremism, through its attempt to expand a self-established ‘Islamic Caliphate’.
And whilst a potential collaboration between two of the world’s most radical ‘terrorist’ groups is likely to stoke global fears, Jasmine Opperman, the Africa director at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Centre, said such a move should come as no surprise. According to Opperman, the first serious indication of such a move was seen in January, when Boko Haram began following a similar media propaganda method as to that of ISIS.
But whilst there is little doubt as to where Boko Haram’s allegiances lie, she said it would be interesting to see whether this backing would be recognized and acknowledged by ISIS.
“What is important is that Boko Haram has now defined itself within the international jihadist global context. It has put itself right there with ISIS. So if one starts talking ISIS, and I foresee they will accept this pledge, Boko Haram is now part and parcel of this package,” she said, noting that this was the most significant endorsement since the group first came to light.
She stressed that this move need not be taken as a symbolic gesture, as it would likely have significant implications from a counter-terrorism perspective.
What the move did underscore however was Boko Haram’s apparent struggles with recruitment, as well as a shortage of ammunition and weaponry. She described the moved as an outcry for assistance from ISIS, and a sign of weakness on the group’s part.
The shockingly swift rise of ISIS in the Middle East has in some ways been coupled with the struggles and gradual demise of the once notorious Al-Qaeda, who has desperately sought to maintain its significance in the region. Opperman noted the influence of IS was growing even amongst other radical organisations, even causing internal conflict amongst groups like the Somali-based Al Shabaab.
“We must remember that ISIS is referring to its whole initiative as the ‘Islamic Caliphate Project’; that is expansion and control. Wherever there is physical territory at stake, control is the object. We are seeing this already with Boko Haram,” she stated.
As ISIS continues to make global headlines over the extreme measures taken to expand its propaganda message, some of the worlds’ frontrunners in Islamic theology have released statements in condemnation of the group’s actions. While these were well researched and well-informed, Opperman questioned whether such statements were doing much to curb support for the group.
“It just seems that this propaganda machine is so overwhelming, that the discrediting initiative which in themselves have rightful arguments, simply cannot hold up against ISIS and what it’s trying to achieve,” she claimed.
ISIS has received global denunciation, particularly for its beheadings of several foreign journalists and aid-workers. Boko Haram has also seen equal vilification for its operations in Northern Nigeria, where kidnappings and mass town raids have become the norm. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)