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Boko Haram’s Pledge of Allegiance to ISIS: The Bigger Picture

On March 7, 2015, Abu Bakr Shekau, leader of the Nigerian-based Al Qaeda affiliated jihadi group Jama’at Ahl Al Sunna lil Da’wa Wal Jihad, better known as Boko Haram, issued a nearly 20-minute message via the Shumoukh Al Islam forum in which he pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

Shekau said, “We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims [Al Baghdadi] … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah.”

Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State was previously predicted by Homeland Security Today in its January report, The African Jihad Problem, and its February report, Boko Haram Expands, Launches ISIS-Style Social Media Presence.

In response, an ISIS spokesman quickly announced that ISIS leader “Caliph” Al Baghdadi welcomed Boko Haram into its ranks, referring to them as "our jihadi brothers" who have now helped to expand the Islamic State’s caliphate into northern Africa.

Through the Islamic State’s media arm, Al Furqan, spokesman Abu Mohammed Al Adnani, stated last Thursday that, “We announce to you to the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa because the caliph … has accepted the allegiance of our brothers of the Sunni group for preaching and the jihad.”

Just days before Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS, jihadi sources reported that an American ISIS fighter named Abu Daoud Al Amriki had carried out a suicide attack using an explosive-laden truck against a gathering of Iraqi soldiers and Shi’ite militia on the outskirts of Samara, Iraq. The next day, a photo of Al Amriki was circulated on pro-ISIS Twitter accounts. Al Amriki’s operation apparently was captured in a video taken by Iraqi forces near the scene. The video, which was posted on the Jihadi Media Platform forum, shows the massive blast.

On February 20, Al Shabaab also released a video detailing the group’s September 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and called for Muslims living in the West to carry out similar attacks on Western shopping malls.

An English speaking masked man called on Muslims living in the West to target disbelievers.

"We call upon our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the West, to answer the call of Allah and target the disbelievers wherever they are. If just a handful of mujahideen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week, then imagine what a dedicated mujahid in the West could do to the American- or Jewish-owed shopping centers across the world,” said the masked narrarator.

He added, "What if such an attack was to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota, or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, or in London’s Oxford Street, orany in the hundred or so Jewish-owned Westfield shopping centers … Take the Westfield shopping center in Stratford … for example — what would be the implications of such an attack? One could only imagine. And all it takes is a man with firm determination, of which our Muslim ummah has plenty of.”

"So, hurry up, hasten towards heaven, and do not hesitate, for the disbelievers have no right whatsoever to rejoice in the safety of their lands, until safety becomes a reality in Palestine and all the lands of Islam, and until we take vengeance on the Western crusaders for the deaths of thousands of innocent Muslims and mujahideen leaders killed in American drone strikes … "

The Al Shabaab video, "The Westgate Siege – Retributive Justice," provided details about Al Shabaab’s attack on the Westgate mall while mocking Kenyan government and security forces’ failure to predict or contain it.

“The video does not reveal the identities, numbers and background of the attackers, but it hints that they were only a small group. The video warns that attacks against Kenya will continue,” said the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Allegiance and unity of jihad

“Quoting a Koranic verse and a hadith pertaining to the importance of unity among Muslims, and the obligation upon Muslims to pledge allegiance to a leader during their lifetime, Shekau recites the pledge of allegiance in which he announces Boko Haram’s obedience to Al Baghdadi,” MEMRI said. which monitors jihadi social media websites. “Shekau also calls upon Muslims in general to follow in his footsteps.”

"We, Jama’at Ahl Al Sunna lil Da’wa Wal Jihad, pledged allegiance [to Al Baghdadi], we pledged allegiance since dispute [among Muslims] has no cure but by [appointing a] caliph," Shekau said in his message, adding, "We call every Muslim to this goodness, since it is the most enraging for the enemies of Allah. By Allah, if we united under a single imam, [it would be] rougher on the enemies of Allah than a thousand victories in the battlefield."

The New York Times reported that, “An oath of allegiance from Boko Haram … to the Islamic State … reinforces Western fears that the terrorist group is growing beyond its base in Iraq and Syria. These worries have prompted American and allied commandos to rush to train African counterterrorism troops to fight extremists on the continent.

Former CIA Deputy and Acting Director Michael Morell said Friday on "CBS This Morning" that Boko Haram’s beneficial allegiance to ISIS means, "They’re now playing with the big boys. They’re going to get more money. They’re going to get more recruits.”

"Boko Haram, for a long time, has focused primarily on local Nigerian targets. This alliance could now get them to focus more on the West, and that’s the danger here," Morell said.

Homeland Security Today Contributing Writer Godfrey Garner earlier “predicted such alliances would occur sooner rather than later” in his reports, If Jihadi Groups Form Alliances, Threat to West Will be Unprecedented, and, The Potential that Jihadi Groups will Unify … and With it, More Savagery. Those predictions, though vitally important to the security of America, were not difficult to make, as all available open source intelligence on the subject of operations of prominent Islamic terrorist organizations point to the fact they will fight together in lieu of losing ground to American supported opposing forces.”

Garner, a veteran special operations counterintelligence officer who retired from US Special Forces in 2006 who did two military tours and six civilian government related tours in Afghanistan, explained that, “History indicates a willingness in the Muslim world to form such alliances among Islamic extremists. As example, in 1170 the Muslim world was united under Saladin the appointed vizier, which was a rare occurrence since he was Sunni and this was a Shia led caliphate. This occurred because the Muslim world faced a common enemy, as they do today."

“Boko Haram’s “pledge comes as little surprise to those in the Intelligence Community since Boko Haram has been following ISIS trends and routinely praising al Baghdadi, featuring his image in their videos and photos,” Garner said.

“Assuming this pledge of allegiance is accepted by ISIS, and there is no reason to believe it will not be,” Garner said, “Boko Haram will be bolstered with weapons, financial assistance and fighters. Just as ISIS has attracted recruits the world over, Boko Haram will now see their recruitment efforts bolstered through assistance from ISIS as well as the fact of the alliance alone.”

Garner said, “The first domino has fallen in this potential worldwide alliance of terrorist groups. Again, common sense supports the analysis that others will follow. All Islamic terrorist groups, though they may have smaller enemies close at hand, are united in their intent to do two things; defeat their ultimate common enemy, the ‘great Satan,’ and see the dream of a worldwide caliphate come to fruition. Those who play down such catastrophic alliances by pointing out individual differences and long standing grievances among some groups risk a great deal in depending on such.”

Garner said, “The most successful among terror groups and terror leaders is ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. The obvious advantage for terror groups the world over is unification and continuation of the fight to achieve their two common goals. From a terrorist’s standpoint, obstacles in the way of such moves pale in comparison to the benefits.”

“Boko Haram is the first domino to fall,” Garner stated, adding, “As dominos fall, they fall more quickly and with more force. The high probability of Islamic terror groups aligning is a threat that cannot be ignored.”

Godfrey explained that, “Intelligence analysts routinely utilize hundreds of tools to produce the intelligence products American leaders depend upon to make decisions. Virtually all of the analysis produced is predictive in nature. The very basic question at the root of this predictive analysis is: ‘factoring in all the available variables — if X happens, will Y follow, or is there reason to believe Y will be substituted by A or B.’ And, in virtually all cases, human nature being what it is, Y does follow X. Consequently, for a number of years now, the major focus of intelligence analysis in America has been Islamic terrorism and extremism.”

“This trend started long before 9/11, however, the tragic events of that day naturally fueled it,” Garner concluded. “And although the analysis of intelligence data in other areas is still routinely conducted, the emphasis is heavily placed upon Islamic terrorism.” He explained that, “To this end, the ‘Y follows X’ question — for some years now — has been, ‘If ISIS continues to strengthen and becomes more and more of a leader in the world of jihadist terrorism, will it attract other Islamic terrorist groups which have in the past been opposed to such?’ A follow-on question is, naturally, ‘What would this mean for America’s continued battle against Islamic terrorism?’”

“The Boko Haram and ISIS allegiance could be an effective propaganda tool, and even aid in recruiting new members to both groups, but can it go beyond that?” asked Homeland Security Today Managing Editor Kylie Bull in her recent report, Boko Haram’s Allegiance to ISIS Paves the Way for Globalized Jihad. “Is there any actual scope for collaboration on joint operations?”

“Writing in The Guardian, Simon Tisdall said the pledge of allegiance is ‘superficial’ and may be a ‘cry for help’ from Boko Haram, which has suffered defeats since united efforts against the group were stepped up following January’s massacre in Baga,” Bull wrote.

Yet, “While the allegiance may be superficial,” Bull said, “it is still damaging – if nothing else, it will boost ISIS’s global profile, and, as Tisdall wrote, ‘For Boko Haram, the shelter of ISIS’s umbrella, and the ungoverned spaces of the Sahel, potentially provide productive new linkages to other Muslim world conflict zones in terms of recruits, weapons, finance, know-how and intelligence. For Western governments, this scenario conjures up their worst nightmare – the prospect of joined-up, globalized jihad.”

Globalized jihad and the ties that bind

“Having reached a stage … where they felt it appropriate, Boko Haram announced in August 2014 the establishment of an Islamic state over the territory they controlled in Northern Nigeria.” But, “At the time, many Western analysts misunderstood this claim to be one of a ‘rival’ caliphate,” recently wrote Kyle Shideler, director of the Center for Security Policy’s Threat Information Office.

Continuing, Shideler said, “Boko Haram’s Shura Council was previously reported to be considering whether or not to swear an oath to ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. Having finally done so, it has been reported as an ‘alliance’ or a ‘team up.’ But the reality is different. An oath to a caliph carries with it significant implications,” as Islamic jurist Ibn Khaldun wrote.”

Abd Al Rahman ibn Khaldun, a revered 14th Century Muslim historian and thinker who is considered a forerunner of original theories in social sciences and philosophy, said of an oath to a proclaimed caliph that, “It should be known that the bay’ah (oath of allegiance) is a contract to render obedience. It is as though the person who renders the oath of allegiance made a contract with his amir, to the effect that he surrenders supervision of his own affairs and those of the Muslims to him and that he will not contest his authority in any of (those affairs) and that he will obey him by (executing) all the duties with which he might be charged, whether agreeable or disagreeable.”

Homeland Security Today recently noted the many interlocking relationships between the various jihadi groups in its report, There Will be Blood: Freeing the Vilest of the Vile from GITMO. Freed GITMO detainees had mutual ties to Al Qaeda and its affiliates – including leaders of ISIS, whose Caliph was once held by the US – and the Taliban.

Additionally, counterterrorism officials believe the jihadists who carried out the attacks on the Paris-based offices of Charlie Hebdo and a jewish frequented café had ties to both Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — which took credit for the attacks — and ISIS.

Homeland Security Today has consistently reported that it doesn’t matter what a particular group calls itself, they’re all jihadists working toward the common goal of eliminating or subjugating Infidels and Apostates and imposing global sharia. The true manifestation – and its savagery and oppression — is seen today in Iraq and Syria.

“I would never use modifier words like ‘Islamist’ or ‘Islamism’ or ‘extremist,’and would simply call this normative, orthodox Islam, and that those who obey shariah simply Muslims — the most devout and pious of whom become jihadis,” said Clare Lopez, a 20-year plus CIA officer specializing in Islamic studies who currently is vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy.

Boko Haram’s ties to Al Qaeda spread beyond Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Its fighters have been trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan while other Boko Haram jihadi fighters have been trained at Al Shabaab camps in Somalia. US intelligence said there also have been "communications, training and weapons links" between Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and AQAP.

In January 2012, a Boko Haram spokesman claimed its leaders met senior Al Qaeda officials in Saudi Arabia. A few months later, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez identified Boko Haram an Al Qaeda "affiliate."

Al Qaeda reportedly provided Boko Haram with $500 Million to purchase of arms and orchestrate attacks in 2015 ahead of elections there in an effort to rid the government of “Infidels” and ensureMuslim candidates were elected as part of a plan to Islamize Nigeria.

Boko Haram members were training with AQIM as far back as 2006, and continued to assist Boko Haram through 2013.

On March 11, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Boko Haram jihadists have traveled to the Middle East to train with ISIS, and indicated the jihadi group has alliances with other international Islamist jihadi groups.

"So we know the links are there. But even now, we may not know the degree of linkages as to how much funds are coming in from them, the kind of volume of weapons coming in from them, the nationalities coming from them,” Jonathan said. “But the training, because some of the Boko Haram members go to have their training in the ISIS camp and come back.”

In response to Nigeria-based Boko Haram’s openly pledged allegiance to ISIS, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said, “A year ago, President Obama called ISIS the ‘JV team’ of terror. Now, with the allegiance of Boko Haram and other brutal Islamist extremists groups, these barbaric terrorists have a direct presence, affiliates or significant support in more than a dozen countries — and an even greater capacity to plot attacks against the United States and our allies. The president must lay out a sweeping plan backed up by the tools necessary to win this war before more Islamist terrorist groups join together in taking aim at the West.”

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on March 13, Director of Central Intelligence John O. Brennan said, “While it is true that the United States and its allies have had considerable success degrading the capabilities of core Al Qaeda, various Al Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist organizations have surged in other countries. Countries such as Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, and, especially Yemen, where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has demonstrated a capability to plot attacks well beyond Yemen’s borders, including in our Homeland.

“But no region has gained more of the world’s attention than Syria and Iraq, where ISIL is waging a campaign of unspeakable brutality against the local population, and indeed against anyone who does not share its ideology.”

As with other top administration officials, Brennan did not identify these groups as Muslim jihadists.

The CIA director said, “ISIL is well-armed and well-financed. Its fighters are disciplined, committed and battle-hardened. Left unchecked, the group would pose a serious danger not only to Syria and Iraq, but to the wider region and beyond, including the threat of attacks in the homelands of the United States and our partners,” noting, “This will be a long-term struggle. ISIL will not be rolled back overnight. If there is one thing we have learned over the years, it is that success against terrorism requires patience anddetermination. Clearly, our country will be dealing with terrorism in one form or another for many years to come.”

Continuing, Brennan said, “We roughly estimate that at least 20,000 fighters from more than 90 countries have gone to fight—several thousand of them from Western nations, including the United States. Blunting the danger these fighters pose upon their return is a top priority for the US Intelligence Community as well as our liaison partners.”

Editor’s note: This report was updated on March 16.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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