West African Islamist extremists Boko Haram may be taking a page from the ISIS social media strategy playbook.
Evidence of links between the two terror groups is growing. A 12-minute video featuring Boko Haram’s usually low-profile leader Abubakar Shekau was posted Tuesday, in which he condemns Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Benin for their joint efforts against the group.
The video shows signs of ISIS influence, including a black flag stationed in the top right corner throughout Shekau’s speech; that flag is usually associated with ISIS, Mashable reported.
But there are other suggestions that the groups – which share a hatred for Western secular society, love for Shariah law, and desire to scoop territory into an Islamic caliphate – are social media bedfellows. BBC reports ISIS-like strategies in the group’s Twitter account and propaganda videos.
After joining Twitter in January, Boko Haram got quick support from ISIS media operatives. Boko Haram is using the stream to post propaganda, videos and provide updates on their activities. It has also posted branded photos of militants and its newly-captured territory, and its videos are decidedly “slicker” than they used to be.
According to BBC, the video’s graphics appear professionally designed and their opening sequences quite flashy. Their native Hausa dialogue has been given English and Arabic subtitles, and jihadist anthems – including one favorite of ISIS – have been used in Boko Haram’s latest video offerings.
However, the ISIS influence hasn’t extended too far. BBC reported some “lack of professionalism” in the West African group’s online presence: The Arabic credits in one video were spelled wrong, and sometimes, videos weren’t posted to Twitter. Others were of lower quality. The group’s short-lived Twitter stream has already been disrupted, reinstated and then infrequently updated.
The suspicions remain, however; all signs point to the possibility that ISIS’s media team is lending its West African brethren a hand, at least indirectly. “Abu-Malik Shaybah al-Hamad,” known on Twitter as a ISIS media operative, claims to be in touch with Boko Haram general command.
There has been no official alliance between the groups, but Nigerian jihadists have reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS. Shekau has declared an Islamic State in Nigeria and praised ISIS openly. However, these whispers of a connection between the groups are inconclusive. Apparently, ISIS requires that certain conditions be met before Boko Haram can become its official branch.
[Photo courtesy YouTube screengrab]