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ISIL Endorses Boko Haram/ISWAP “Unholy Alliance,” A Turning Point in Nigeria’s war against terrorism

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, the leader of the international terrorist organisation, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has endorsed the “unholy alliance” and pledge of loyalty and allegiance from the Boko Haram/Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists in Northeast Nigeria, commending ISWAP for the death of Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram factional leader who blew himself up on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

Abu Hamza Al-Quraishiy, the IS’ Spokesperson, in a message published by the international terrorists’ weekly publication “Al-Naba” and spread in its weekly newsletter in Arabic language, branded Jama’atu Ahlussunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (JAS), Shekau’s subgroup as “Khawarij,” a disparaging sectarian word for Muslims who pour the blood of fellow Muslims without a valid basis.

They were also accused of causing splits and hardships among jihadists in West Africa in an audio message titled “And You Are the Supreme Ones if You Are Believers,” which was released earlier this week.

The messages, both in Arabic print and audio, was seen as boost the ISWAP in Lake Chad and will likely entice other JAS sub-factions to rejoin the outfit.

Sources however said that the “unholy alliance” and the open commendation by the IS leadership signals a likely new phase in the war against ISWAP insurgency in Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin.

Both terror groups united, barely two months after Shekau killed himself in a fight against rival jihadist fighters from ISWAP led by its Commander, Baana Duguri, in the same Sambisa Forest, instead of surrendering.

To demonstrate their unity of purpose, both Boko Haram and ISWAP, once fierce enemies, pledged their loyalty and allegiance to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, the leader of ISIL. His true identity is Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi.

Earlier reports said the two groups pledged loyalty and allegiance to a certain Aba Ibrahim Al-Hashimiyil AlKhuraishi, whom they unanimously ordained as ‘Khalifan Muslimai’, translated as “The Leader of all Muslims.”

But surprisingly, the pledge of loyalty and allegiance is nothing new. In March 2015, late Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to self-proclaimed Islamic State’s leader Abubakar al-Baghdadi, expecting to be named the “wali” of ISWAP. But on August 3, the Islamic State announced that Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram’s founder, Muhammed Yusuf, was the new “wali” of ISWAP. Musab al-Barnawi was aligned with Mamman Nur, Shekau’s former rival for Boko Haram leadership.

With the IS announcement of the appointment, Shekau immediately responded on August 8, 2015 with an audio, making it clear he was reverting to his former position as “imam” of Jamaatu ahlis Sunna li’Dawati wal Jihad (JAS, the original name of the surviving followers of Muhammed Yusuf). He acknowledged Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the “wali” of ISWAP, but that he will continue the “jihad against Nigeria and the world” as the leader of #JAS.

So, effectively, once upon a time, there existed three factions of the terror network in the Lake Chad Basin, especially Northeast Nigeria. They include the original Boko Haram’s Jama’atu Ahlis-Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (#JAS), meaning People Committed to the Prophets Teachings for Propagation and Jihad, ISWAP and the faction led by Malam Bakura. Makura, a former ISWAP leader was killed by troops of the Muti-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in March last year in a joint air and artillery interdiction at his hideout.

In the 13-minute video displaying the “unholy alliance” against Nigeria last week, the #Bakura faction was the only of the three not represented as the two factions ended the Shekau terrorism era. Sources said that display of unity may be a way of putting pressure on the #Bakura faction and allies to give up #JAS loyalty entirely and join the umbrella #ISWAP. The source said the resistant of the #Bakura faction may pose a risk in future as they still pose a significant threat to any consolidation of #JAS by #ISWAP.

In a said unity video footage, the two once rival terrorist groups were seen chanting songs and words of solidarity as they affirmed their togetherness and unity, placing their hands on top each other. Four terrorists from both groups were seen pledging their support and loyalty to the new leader in the four languages of their membership or outreach – Arabic, Hausa, English and Fulfulde.

One of the speakers confirmed earlier report that Nigeria’s Intelligence services played critical roles in creating divisions in the camps of #Jas and #ISWAP terrorists when he claimed that, “the enemies succeeded in dividing us, but we are now back.”

The immediate-past Chief of Military Intelligence of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Abdulrahman Kuliya, who died alongside Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, in an air mishap in the Kaduna last month, played decisive roles in the infiltration of terrorists’ factions, leading to violent confrontations among fighters of Boko Haram and ISWAP groups, and the eventual death of Shekau.

Another said every member of Boko Haram and ISWAP should be happy that they are now united. Another, while speaking in Hausa, while ‘warmly’ greeting the IS leader, assured that he and his colleague-insurgents will not flout his orders and commandments.

He expressed delight that they are now back as one ‘indivisible entity, after the mutual hatred that hitherto divided them, gave way.

Another ISWAP fighter, who was wielding a sophisticated gun hung on his neck, thundered: “What is left now is Jihad. We will not stop fighting the unbelievers. All the disbelievers have entered trouble.”

The terrorist said that every Boko Haram and ISWAP member must be ready to fight under the directive of their new Leader, for them to survive, and succeed.

One notable thing emerged from the video, which was the sheer numbers of #JAS fighters that merged with ISWAP, many of them unfortunately underage. The numbers represent a significant boost to ISIL cadre, though it is yet to be seen if the underage children would be used in actual combat roles as during the era of Shekau. The numbers also show the international terrorists stamp of interest and authority in the Lake Chad Basin area.

According to the statement of endorsement and commendation from the ISIL Spokesperson, “we also praise your blessed work in extirpating and putting out the fitna of the Khawarij, and we praise God the generous that He has granted success to those who have been striving behind them to return to the earnestness of the right path.

“We rejoiced much in the news of their bay’a, and we convey to them that the Amir al-Mu’mineen has accepted their bay’a and specifies them for greetings, and counsels them to be steadfast on the command of their religion, and that they should not be the tools of every person of arbitrary whim and innovation, and that they should fear God Almighty for their sakes, and they should not forsake their religion for the sake of material benefit.”

“And they must do well in fighting the armies of the Tawagheet so that they should make up for what they lost from the days that they wasted in following the fitnas and engaging in doubts,” he remarked.

The Islamic State’s statement urged Muslims in West Africa to join the terrorist group to achieve the terrorist group’s goals of creating a caliphate in the region.

“Assemble around your Dawla and your imam to support and implement the ruling of the Lord of the Worlds’ law, and may what happened to your brothers in Iraq and al-Sham be a lesson to you that has not and will not be repeated, after many of them forsook and turned away from supporting their religion and Dawla, to the point where today there has come to them the one who inflicts painful torment on a people. So hurry up and compete, and join and support your Dawla, and terrify God’s and your enemies,” he said.

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