U.S. officials do not think a new video by Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants is evidence of growing ties with the Islamic State, despite striking similarities with previous Islamic State productions.
“It’s doubtful that there’s a deep operational partnership," a U.S. official told VOA on condition of anonymity. “Aside from the propaganda, Boko Haram’s really focused on the situation there [in Nigeria].”
The Boko Haram video released online Monday, entitled "Harvest of Spies," shows the beheading of two alleged spies. Both are forced to kneel on the ground while masked militants with long knives stand behind them.
During the duration of the video, the black IS flag can be seen flying in the upper right-hand corner.
The SITE intelligence, which analyzed the video, also said it uses elements from other Islamic State productions, like the sound of a beating heart and heavy breathing in the moments leading up to the executions.
Before his beheading, one of the men identifies himself as Dawoud Muhammad of Baga city in northeastern Nigeria, and says he accepted the equivalent of $25 from a police officer to spy.
The video does not show the moment of the killings. Instead, militants are seen placing the men's separated heads onto their prone bodies, similar to photos and videos IS has put out of its executed hostages.
Such similarities, though, are likely not a coincidence.
The U.S. official said Boko Haram has been taking cues from Islamic State as its own propaganda efforts have evolved, and that both groups are increasingly “shouting at each other” through social media to make each other look bigger and scarier.
Recently, Boko Haram even used social media to suggest it is considering swearing allegiance to IS.
“What social media gives the groups is a facade that makes it look like they’re working together more than they really are,” the official said.
There was no indication where or when the beheadings in the new Boko Haram video took place.
This is the second time the Nigerian extremist group has released a beheading video. The first, in October, showed Boko Haram executing a man said to be the pilot of a missing Nigerian Air Force jet.
Until recently, Boko Haram's videos have usually featured long, strident monologues from leader Abubakar Shekau, although U.S. intelligence officials say there has been an ongoing effort to move toward more slickly produced videos.
In another development, Nigeria's military said Boko Haram militants launched another attack on the northeastern town of Konduga, but were repelled. Military officials say the five-hour shootout Sunday left 72 militants dead along with one soldier. There was no independent confirmation of the casualty figures.
A soldier who participated in the attack told VOA the militants tried to carry out a suicide bombing with a car filled with explosives. He said the military was tipped off about the plan and said a military sniper killed the driver of the car before the attack could take place.
Konduga has been attacked many times in the past year.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people since launching its insurgency in 2009, and controls numerous towns in northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon launched an offensive against the group in late January and have retaken some of the towns.