Two of the most infamous and brutal terror groups are working towards joining forces following the release of a new audio recording.
The message has yet to be authenticated but appears to be from the leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, pledging allegiance to the ISIS. The jihadist monitoring group SITE on Saturday, March 7, quoted Shekau saying, “We announce our allegiance to the Caliph.”
There have been rumors that the two groups were working together recently. The latest propaganda video issued by Boko Haram, which shows the execution of two alleged spies, made it apparent that the Nigerian group had received aid from ISIS with media production and propaganda strategies.
U.S. intelligence officials remain skeptical that Boko Haram and ISIS had forged any “deep operational partnership.”
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, agreed that if the pledge was real, Boko Haram most likely had some extra motivation.
“There is almost certainly money involved in the deal,” Gartenstein-Ross said.
There has been some evidence that despite a decline in revenues, ISIS has been throwing money around in hopes of countering losses on the ground in Iraq.
“Islamic State has been trying to show that it has momentum by luring more affiliates,” Gartenstein-Ross said. “They have a business model that requires them to maintain the perception of momentum.”
What Boko Haram gains from a pledge, besides the possibility of money, is unknown.
“They lose quite a bit or risk losing quite a bit from the pledge,” Gartenstein-Ross said, especially as Boko Haram had been benefiting from ties to two al-Qaida linked groups, AQIM and al-Shabab in Somalia.
“Presumably, this pledge means it’s going to lose that network of support,” he said.
Analysts said Boko Haram’s relationship with the al-Qaida core has been in jeopardy since the Nigerian group slaughtered over 2,000 people in January. It is possible the resulting tension may have influenced Boko Haram toward pursuing an alliance with the ISIS.
If the audio message is authentic, Boko Haram would become the largest group to pledge allegiance to the ISIS. U.S. intelligence officials believe Boko Haram has 4,000 to 6,000 fighters, the vast majority of whom have been recruited from northern Nigeria and from nearby areas with which Boko Haram has ethnic or cultural links. The Islamic State is thought to have 20,000 to 32,000 fighters, many of whom come from across the Muslim world and the West.