The Islamic State group is expanding into West Africa after accepting an allegiance pledge from Boko Haram.
The allegiance pledge was made public after an audio recording was released by the Islamic State on Thursday, March 12. According to Time Magazine, Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm, was able to independently verify the audio recording.
According to Time Magazine, Boko Haram is classified as an Islamist militant group that has kidnapped and murdered thousands of Nigerian people throughout the last decade. The group is infamous for kidnapping 270 Nigerian schoolgirls last year. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, delivered the pledge that was ultimately posted online.
“We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims … 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,” said Shekau, according to The New York Post.
According to NBC, the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, congratulated the members of Boko Haram on joining their movement. Currently, the Islamic State is in control of large portions of both Iraq and Syria.
Laith Alkhouri, director of Middle East and North African research and analysis at Flashpoint, told NBC that this allegiance is important because Boko Haram controls parts of Western Africa where, “ISIS has very little, if any, control.”
According to The New York Post, Islamic State group spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani announced his support for the allegiance pledge as well, saying, “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.”
In the same message, al-Adnani also announced that citizens living in areas controlled by the Islamic State must either convert to Islam or pay a special tax. This policy is already in place throughout parts of Iraq and Syria.
This announcement may not have been that big of a surprise for Nigerian officials, however. According to The New York Post, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told the BBC that Boko Haram fighters have begun reporting to Islamic State camps to receive military training.
Boko Haram has also been showing influence from the Islamic State on social media, according to The New York Post. Boko Haram now has a more established Twitter account and more elaborate video messages similar to the ones that Islamic State media produce.
U.S. intelligence officials may have been more surprised by the pairing, however. According to NBC, officials previously suggested that “the Arab world wouldn’t see black Africans ‘as equivalent to them.’”
Despite these initial beliefs, the lead up to this allegiance may have been signaled beforehand. According to NBC, Boko Haram began displaying the Islamic State’s signature black flag and mimicking their rhetorical tactics months ago.
Another telltale sign was when Shekau praised the Charlie Hebdo attackers in Paris. According to NBC, this is significant because it signified a rare message that did not involve affairs within the West Africa region. This was Boko Haram’s first real foray into international terror, and may have “reinforced Boko Haram’s growing eye for a role in the bigger global movement.”
Boko Haram’s propaganda tools and use of child fighters have also become more like the Islamic State, referring to these children as “cubs of the caliphate,” according to NBC. This is the same phrase the Islamic State uses to describe children in training camps.
Editor’s Note: Information from NBC, The New York Post, the BBC and Time was used in this report.