The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has pledged official allegiance to ISIS, according to an audio statement released online Saturday. In the audio, a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau appears to address ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and also calls on Muslims throughout the world to declare a similar loyalty.
The message, posted via Boko Haram social media accounts, was confirmed by Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm and NBC News consultant. According to Flashpoint, the audio confirms what many analysts have said would happen: a bridging between Boko Haram and ISIS. Boko Haram is also following ISIS’s trend of releasing messages online and mimicking the terror network’s propaganda.
ISIS has not yet responded. Laith Alkhouri, director of MENA research and analysis at Flashpoint, said it is likely the terror group would accept Boko Haram’s apparent proposal. The message by Boko Haram was in the same format as messages released by other groups that have pledged to fight under ISIS’s black flag, and in those cases ISIS has accepted, he said.
“Boko Haram is not only one of the strongest groups to support ISIS, it’s also in [an] area ISIS has very little, if any, control,” Alkhouri said. “This gives ISIS the extra credibility and the additional territory to further its growth around the world.”