Article written

  • on 30.10.2014
  • at 10:30 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

Is ISIS allied to or influencing African Jihadi Groups? 0

In August 2014, Africa’s spy chiefs met in Nairobi as part of the African Union’s Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA). They expressed deep concern about the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the likelihood that the radical outfit might influence the continent’s own jihadi groups.

Areas of concern for the chiefs included an “alliance being built by terror groups worldwide, sophisticated sources of funding, and [Africa’s] porous borders.” A major risk of ISIS establishing itself in Africa is through the continent’s organized jihadi groups. This begs the question: Does ISIS has a relationship with these groups?

Here is where major African groups stand:

Boko Haram

This Nigerian group is currently the most lethal of all African terror groups. Known for its bombings, bank robberies and kidnappings, the group has in the last 2 months captured a large swathe of territory – a tactic that is said to have been inspired by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Abu Bakr Shekau, the then head of Boko Haram, boasted about the capture of Gwozo, calling it a “state among the Islamic states.”

In July, Shekau publicly declared support for ISIS. What is interesting about his declaration is that Shekau thanked, prayed for, and equally praised three famous jihadi leaders: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (ISIS), Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (Al-Qaeda), and Mullah Omar of the Taliban.

A point worthy of further analysis is whether these three groups are perceived, by the group’s leadership, as having the same status as Boko Haram. Boko Haram however, seems to considers itself to be an independent jihadi group that shirks alliances and entanglements with global jihadi groups. The US State Department has ruled out any affiliation between Al-Qaeda central. Shekau’s public support for ISIS can also be explained as simply being a demonstration of this erratic figure’s penchant for self-promotion.

ISIS’s current priority is strengthening its positions on the Levant and defending itself against American-targeted airstrikes. For ISIS’s leadership, the only de facto caliphate that matters is its own. Thus, all existing jihadi groups–as well as the territories they control, fall under its jurisdiction. According to a statement by ISIS: “The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations become null by the expansion of the khilafah’s [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.”


Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a branch of Al-Qaeda central under the leadership of Abdelmaled Droukdel and operating largely in Algeria and northern Mali, has rejected ISIS’s claim of being an Islamic caliphate. Last July, Droukdel emphasised that the group’s Bay’at (oath of allegiance) to Zawahiri still stands.

continue reading on African Arguments

By Hassan M. AbukarAfrican Arguments

Photo credit: Flickr/Al-Kataib 

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