Jihadists in West Africa renew allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

On June 15, the Islamic State’s West Africa province released a video featuring Abu Salmah al-Mangawi (center) and other fighters.

On June 15, the Islamic State’s West Africa “province” released a short video of fighters from Mali and Burkina Faso renewing their pledge of fealty to the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The so-called caliphate continues to compete with al Qaeda loyalists in the region for the loyalty of would-be jihadists. And the new video is intended to underscore the commitment of Baghdadi’s followers despite setbacks in Iraq and Syria.

The footage is introduced with a text slide declaring the fighters’ solidarity with the Islamic State, saying they are still “loyal” to their oath and will continue to battle the forces of unbelief, which claim to have “eradicated the caliphate.” The jihadists ask Allah to grant Baghdadi’s caliphate “glory” in “perpetuity.” The text then declares that the jihadists’ “renew” their bayat (pledge of allegiance) to the “Caliph of the Muslims, the mujahid Sheikh Abu-Bakr al-Husseini al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi.”

The recorded portion of the video features a masked figure identified as Abu Salmah al-Mangawi. He is flanked by his foot soldiers as he delivers a statement. Al-Mangawi declares that the Islamic State is “our caliphate” and portrays it as a force for “unity.” He argues that before the “rightly guided caliphate” was declared in 2014, the jihadists were divided into various factions and groups, but then Allah brought Muslims together under the caliphate’s banner.

This is a misleading and inaccurate version of events, as the Islamic State’s caliphate declaration actually sowed new divisions in the jihadists’ ranks. To this day, al Qaeda rejects the notion that Baghdadi’s caliphate is “rightly guided” according to the prophetic methodology.

Islamic State West Africa’s new video includes archival footage from the height of the so-called caliphate’s power, including this scene of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and Abu Omar al-Shishani, both of whom were subsequently killed.

But for al-Mangawi, Baghdadi’s enterprise is the only righteous option, especially in the face of the “crusaders.” The video’s director includes images of the UN, Western and African forces to emphasize the group’s opposition to all those allegedly advocating disbelief.

Al-Mangawi claims that the jihadists’ commitment to implementing sharia “throughout the entire world” has only strengthened, even though the Islamic State has lost “influence” in some of the areas it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. This is because Allah has supposedly “bestowed glory upon the Islamic caliphate.”

He also taunts those international-backed fighters who have launched “operation after operation” against the jihadists. Despite this opposition, the Islamic State’s men have captured several towns in Nigeria, al-Mangawi says, while also terrorizing Niger and Chad.

Al-Mangawi then leads his “brothers” in a ceremony proclaiming their continued fealty to Baghdadi. “We pledge [allegiance] to the Caliph of the Muslims, the Amir-ul-Mumineen [Commander of the Faithful], Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to listen and obey, during hardship and ease and during difficulty and prosperity,” the fighters say. They add that they will “endure” whatever adversity comes their way and, in accordance with their allegiance, will not undermine or quarrel with their leaders unless they are clearly acting in disbelief.

This same scene has been reenacted time and again in Islamic State productions.

Fighters in West Africa renew pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

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

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