Boko Haram emir praises al Qaeda


Boko Haram emir Abubakar Shekau, from a propaganda tape.

The emir of Boko Haram, the Nigerian terror group that has ties to al Qaeda, has praised the global jihadist organization, and said he and his fighters support jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, and Mali.

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, lauds and supports al Qaeda and its affiliates in a videotape that was released yesterday on jihadist forums. Shekau’s speech, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, was issued in Arabic, which is an indication that he is seeking to appeal to both the wider jihadist community and al Qaeda’s leaders. The 39-minute-long videotape includes numerous clips of Boko Haram fighters in training, as well as video of weapons seized by the group during raids.

Shekau repeatedly refers to the fighters in the jihadist theaters as his “brothers.” He directly addresses “the soldiers of the Islamic State in Mali … our brothers and sheikhs in beloved Somalia … our brothers and sheikhs in Libya … our brothers and sheikhs in oppressed Afghanistan … our brothers and sheikhs in wounded Iraq … our brothers and sheikhs in Pakistan … our brothers and sheikhs in blessed Yemen … our brothers and sheikhs in usurped Palestine, and other places where our brothers are doing jihad in the Cause of Allah.”

Shekau warns “Britain, America, Israel, and Nigeria” that the killing of jihadist leaders and imams will not defeat the groups. He also refers to some of al Qaeda’s top leaders who were killed over the past two decades, and notes that “jihad” did not end with their deaths.

“Don’t think that jihad stops with the death of imams, because imams are individuals,” Shekau says. “Don’t you see and think how many sheikhs and men were martyred, like Sheikh Abdullah Azzam [the co-founder of al Qaeda], Abu Musab al Zarqawi [the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq], Abu Omar al Baghdadi [the emir of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq], Osama bin Laden, Abu Yahya al Libi [a top al Qaeda leader], Abu Yusuf Muhammad bin Yusuf al Nigiri [the former emir of Boko Haram], and others ….”

Shekau says that Boko Haram is “with our mujahideen brothers” in the major theaters of jihad in their fight against “the Jews and the Crusader Christians.”

“We are with our mujahideen brothers in the Cause of Allah everywhere, in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Pakistan, Kashmir, Iraq, the Peninsula of Muhammad [Saudi Arabia], Allah’s peace and prayer be upon him, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, and other places that I didn’t mention,” Shakau says.

Shekau’s videotape is very similar to tapes issued by Shabaab in 2008, when the Somali terror group was making overtures to openly join al Qaeda. Shabaab officially joined al Qaeda in February 2012, but the two groups had already worked closely for years, and al Qaeda leaders served in Shabaab’s top leadership circles prior to the merger.

Boko Haram and the global jihad

Boko Haram has aimed to become a player in the global jihad. Its fighters are known to fight in Mali with al Qaeda-linked groups, and its members have trained with Shabaab. The terror group has also expanded its propaganda efforts to show solidarity with al Qaeda and its affiliates. In July 2010, Boko Haram emir Abubakar Shekau issued an online statement praising al Qaeda and offering condolences to al Qaeda of Iraq for its loss of Abu Ayyub al Masri and Abu Omar al Baghdadi. He also threatened the United States.

“Do not think jihad is over,” Shekau said. “Rather jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury.”

Documents seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan showed that top-level Boko Haram leaders have been in touch with al Qaeda, according to The Guardian. In addition, Boko Haram is known to receive support from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and from Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate in East Africa.

Boko Haram has stepped up its suicide operations in Nigeria. So far this year, Boko Haram has carried out at least 19 suicide attacks [see LWJ report, Boko Haram suicide bombs kill 11 at Nigerian military church]. The targets have included churches, mosques, newspapers, government officials, and security forces.

The terror group also conducted several other suicide attacks in previous years, and not all of its attacks have been against local Nigerian targets. Boko Haram’s most high-profile suicide attack targeted the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja in August 2011.

The US has only just begun to awaken to the threat that Boko Haram poses to the international community. In June, the US added Shekau to its list of global terrorists, along with Khalid al Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kamba, both of whom have ties to Boko Haram and close links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. But the US government has not added Boko Haram to the list of terrorist entities, as some officials fear the designation would only serve to further radicalize the group.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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