The most powerful terrorist organization in west Africa, Boko Haram, has declared its allegiance to the 'Islamic State' and their 'caliph' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In a recently released audio message, posted on the group's official Twitter page, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau swore allegiance to Baghdadi and ISIS, "in times of difficulty and prosperity." Boko Haram had previously made gestures toward ISIS, but this announcement may likely serve as an ideological boost to the group, waging war in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has previously accepted pledges from extremist groups in the Middle East, Afghanistan/Pakistan, and the Gulf.
Boko Haram, which can be translated to "western education is forbidden," has waged a radical Islamist insurgency in northern #Nigeria for over five and a half years. The group is thought responsible for the 2014 Chibok kidnappings, and the conflict has thus far left thousands of dead and sparked a regional humanitarian crisis. Boko Haram previously had indirect ties with al-Qaeda affiliate in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but the declaration of loyalty to ISIS reflects a distancing from al-Qaeda. ISIS and al-Qaeda have been at odds since their official split over a year ago.
Within Iraq itself, ISIS has recently suffered major setbacks. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Iran's military wing tasked with 'external defense,' has taken a more direct role in supporting the Iraqi army and Shia militias in a recent campaign to retake Tikrit, Iraq. Analysts have cited the bolstering of Shia militias and Iranian influence as fundamental to the successes against ISIS within Iraq. Additionally, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and US/Western airstrikes in northern Iraq have also achieved progress in weakening the extremist group.
In west Africa, Nigerian troops and regional allies have successfully retaken key strongholds of Boko Haram while the group has increasingly targeted civilians. Multiple suicide attacks carried out by Boko Haram in the town of Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, killed over 50 people over the weekend. Elections in Nigeria have been postponed for six weeks to allow time for a planned offensive against Shekau and Boko Haram.