Boko Haram pledges allegiance to the Islamic State

Boko Haram’s declaration of allegiance to the Islamic State is unlikely to reverse the Nigerian group’s loss of territorial control, according to new analysis from Martin Roberts, Analyst at IHS Country Risk.

“It is likely that Shekau’s pledge is at least in part a cry for help as Boko Haram is losing control of many of the residential areas it had captured since it began holding on to territory in July 2014.

“When the offensive ends, Boko Haram will hope to exploit its allegiance to the Islamic State to secure weapons, funding, and expertise although its strong identification with the Kanuri ethnic group means it is unlikely to attract a significant influx of foreign fighters.

“Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in an audio message on Twitter on 7 March. The commitment is not a surprise given that Boko Haram has been imitating Islamic State tactics including the declaration of a caliphate, increasing its social media presence and transmitting videos of beheadings.

“However, Boko Haram is now on the defensive and facing a renewed assault in Nigeria by combined forces from Chad and Niger. Local residents reported around 300 vehicles, including some carrying heavy weapons, moved out from Diffa in Niger on 8 March, taking troops from Chad and Niger into Nigeria.

“It is likely that Shekau’s pledge is at least in part a cry for help as Boko Haram is losing control of many of the residential areas it had captured since it began holding on to territory in July 2014.

“However, the current offensive is a means to weaken Boko Haram before Nigeria’s presidential election scheduled for 28 March, and also to prepare the ground for an African Union-mandated force, which will be limited to securing the Nigerian side of Lake Chad rather than pushing deeper into the country.

“When the offensive ends, Boko Haram will hope to exploit its allegiance to the Islamic State to secure weapons, funding, and expertise although its strong identification with the Kanuri ethnic group means it is unlikely to attract a significant influx of foreign fighters. With limited assistance, it is likely to concentrate on more typical guerrilla tactics such as hit-and-run assaults on military bases, and suicide bombings, as occurred in Maiduguri. The latter incidents will be concentrated in the northeast, but Boko Haram also clearly has the capability and network to strike at other northern cities such as Kano, Kaduna, and Bauchi on a regular basis.”

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