News / Africa

Islamic State Declaration Spreads to Nigeria

Video screen shot of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram leader and obtained by AFP shows Abu Bakr Shekau, delivering a speech at an undisclosed location, Aug. 24, 2014.
Video screen shot of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram leader and obtained by AFP shows Abu Bakr Shekau, delivering a speech at an undisclosed location, Aug. 24, 2014.
William Eagle

Boko Haram’s declaration of a caliphate and an Islamic state in Nigeria yesterday mirrors the declaration made three months ago by the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

It was al-Baghdadi's Islamic State that last week shocked the world with the release of the video execution of American journalist James Foley.

Yesterday, as Islamic State  militants seized a Syrian military base, Boko Haram’s leader, Abu Bakr Shekau in Nigeria posted his own video declaration of an Islamic state in the northwest corner of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

Nigeria’s armed jihadists are evolving from years of hit-and-run tactics to try to capture and occupy towns, according to analysts.

Nigerians in the northern town of Buni Yadi began fleeing Boko Haram late last week. That follows reports of Boko Haram’s take-over of government buildings in Gwoza – a town on Nigeria’s western border with Cameroon - where the militants placed one of their own on the throne of a local emir.

The Nigerian government denies Boko Haram’s occupation claims.

Nigerian rebels watch events in Iraq

Jacob Zenn of Washington D.C.’s Jamestown Foundation is among a number of observers of Nigeria’s radical Muslim force who sees potentially stronger links between various jihadist forces in Africa – including Boko Haram - and the greater political ambitions of the Islamic State in Iraq. Zenn and others also see al-Baghdadi’s jihadists in Syria and Iraq competing with the terrorists of al-Qaida for the allegiances of Africa’s Islamist rebels.

Analysts explain Boko Haram links to Islamic state in Iraq
Analysts explain Boko Haram links to Islamic state in Iraqi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Baghdadi’s military fortunes in Syria and Iraq follow his stated intention to create a caliphate, a movement to expand geographic control under a supreme religious and political leader who acts as a caliph reminiscent of Muslim rulers of a 17th-century Ottoman Empire.

Zenn has watched Nigeria’s armed extremists try to carve a small Islamic empire out of Borno state in the Nigeria’s north. He thinks Shekau and his heavily-armed fighters are paying close attention to Baghdadi’s progress in far-away Syria and Iraq.

“It seems that the declaration of the caliphate by ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, would be well-received by a group like Boko Haram that has not been declared a formal affiliate by al-Qaida,” said Zenn. “Because you see around the world the groups that al-Qaida did not reach out to, all appearing to side more with ISIS probably because they felt that Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida since bin Laden’s death, didn’t sufficiently cozy up to them.”

Boko Harm and other far-flung jihadist movements now have a choice to make. Shadi Hamid, a Brookings Institution fellow at their Middle Eastern studies center, says Baghdadi’s Islamic State is far different than Boko Haram and more of a political model than what Hamid calls "al-Qaida Central."

“ISIS has been very good at creating facts on the ground,” said Hamid. “And they do control large swaths of territory and in that sense what we’re seeing is unprecedented. I mean al-Qaida never really controlled territory in that way and were never so ambitious as to go around declaring caliphates. So, in this sense, ISIS is a bit of an upstart and they’re very ambitious; probably too ambitious and I think they will probably fall under the weight of their own ambition.”

The ambitions of al-Baghdadi and his followers may soon confront major world powers that could curb those ambitions. Zenn suggests that ISIS is appealing for help from Boko Haram and others jihadists.

Boko Haram may be more successful

Zenn says the Iraqi version of an Islamic State has larger opposition than Boko Haram. “And that may be why ISIS is reaching out through the scraps of the al-Qaida network - like Boko Haram, like the Philippines’ Abu Sayyaf, like the Indonesian group in Sulawesi.

“But in terms of Boko Haram following the ISIS model of floating in the border regions and then attacking deeper into the countries, I think that Boko Haram could likely have more success in West Africa,” Zenn said. “There are fewer mid- and major-powers that can roll back a group like Boko Haram if it sought to carry out a blitzkrieg through countries like Chad, Cameroon and Niger.”

The attraction of a modern caliphate

If al-Baghdadi’s followers have a greater challenge ahead of them, Hamid argues that other jihadists could benefit from studying what this proposed caliphate is trying to build. Hamid describes the new vision – even a kind of governance - offered by al-Baghdadi and his followers.

“Now, Boko Haram is more of an old-school terrorist group in the sense that it is all about destroying and there isn’t much of a sense of vision there as to what to build in its place,” said Hamid. “This is where ISIS – they’re not the old al-Qaida approach of the early 2000’s which was very much focused on killing, on terrorist attacks - this is where other extremist groups like Boko Haram are watching ISIS very closely.

“It does force them to think about these issues more,” said Hamid. “And not just about a caliphate in a general sense, but also, ‘How do you hold territory?’ ‘How do you govern?’ ‘Should you be governing?’  ‘How do you provide services to the constituents in the territory that you hold?’”

Boko Haram’s African support network

Boko Haram owes much to al-Qaida Central, Zenn said.

“Their ties within northern Africa and the Gulf are considerable," he said. "Most directly, it has been groups like al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb based in countries like Mali, Algeria and Mauritania that have provided expertise to Boko Haram.”

They enjoy “very close relations” with import-export businessmen in Cameroon and received training from militants in Libya, Zenn said, training from al-Shabab and probable financial support from groups in Sudan, the Gulf states and the United Kingdom.

“It’s certainly a wider network than just Nigeria, even if the focus of the concentration of its attacks is on Nigeria,” Zenn said.

A contest between powers and personalities

“Al Qaida Central has been clear about distancing itself and disavowing ISIS," Hamid said. “It’s not just about ISIS’s methods but it’s also about personalities and power. It’s also about who controls this Islamic jihadist movement that al Qaida represents. And Ayman al-Zawahiri, who obviously replaced Usama bin Laden as the head of al Qaida Central, is not someone who is nearly as charismatic and doesn’t have the same level of respect as bin Laden did. So in that sense there is more room for other competitors to move into that space.

Boko Haram and its counterparts in other parts of African may make a choice as to which jihadist forces to follow, should the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or al-Qaida survive and prosper. So far, Boko Haram has been successful in tearing down the social and political structures of Borno State.

With little effective resistance to date from the Nigerian military - where thousands have died in three northern states of Nigeria and an estimated 200 school girls remain missing after being abducted by the terrorists more than four months ago - Boko Haram’s leaders may not need to follow the Islamic state or al-Qaida.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs