ISIS and Boko Haram’s Online Alliance


U.S. intelligence sees the bloodthirsty African group ‘take a page from the Islamic State’s social-media playbook.’ But Internet cooperation may be just the start.

Boko Haram, which has terrorized Nigeria in its quest to create an Islamic caliphate, appears to mirroring the Islamic State’s online media campaign and potentially laying the groundwork for future coordination between the groups, U.S. government officials and experts told The Daily Beast.

The terrifying prospect that two of the world’s most ruthless, bloodthirsty jihadi groups could be moving toward creating an extremist alliance that extends from western Africa to Southeast Asia left Washington analysts scrambling to make sense of Boko Haram’s newfound online presence.

In the last 10 days, Boko Haram has created an online media channel, The Indissolube Link (or Urwah al-Wuthqa), that looks very much like the Islamic State’s al Furqan outlet. The channel puts out videos, statements, and other forms of propaganda.

The outlet presents a new kind of Boko Haram. Rather than showing grainy videos days after a purported attack, the newly created channel now features slickly produced pieces, in some cases with Arabic and English subtitles, within hours of an attack it wants to claim credit for.

For example, a 12-minute video interview with Boko Haram’s spokesman bore many Islamic State hallmarks: professional graphics, a black flag waving in the corner cutaways, and blurred out faces of both the spokesman and the interviewer. Other videos open with a common anthem used by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The Indissoluble Link also created a new Boko Haram Twitter account. And in the last few days, Islamic State supporters on Twitter have been among the first to push out these Boko Haram messages. They’ve also joyfully welcomed the new Boko media outlet and offered congratulations on the new endeavor. Nearly all of the tweets were in Arabic, even though Nigeria’s official language is English. That Boko Haram messages have suddenly become far more sophisticated suggests they had outside help, said Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs who studies jihadi movements and details Boko Haram’s new media activity here.

“There are signs that things could be going on behind the scenes in terms of future announcements between the two groups,” Zelin told The Daily Beast.

A U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast that while Boko Haram’s media campaign appears to be inspired by the Islamic State, there is no evidence of entrenched cooperation between the two. For example, there is no official claim the groups have converged or any indisputable evidence they are plotting together.

In the intelligence community’s view, the shared rhetoric does not extend to plans to work together—at least not yet.

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SOURCE: Nancy A. Youssef 
The Daily Beast