The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISWAP -- a rival Daesh offshoot in the West African country -- following the death of its leader Abubakar Shekau, according to a video produced and wired by Daesh’s media arm.
The video, obtained by Reuters, shows several hundred armed fighters gathering in the bush and making statements to the camera.
"We will unite together to fight the [opposition]”, a Boko Haram fighter said in the Hausa language. “Now that we're united, any upcoming event, will by far exceed what transpired in the past.”
The video sparks fears that ISWAP is consolidating control of the insurgency in northeastern Nigeria since the Boko Haram leader’s death last month.
However, some observers do not see the video as proof that all Boko Haram fighters are ready to join ISWAP, as the two groups have been in violent rivalry for years.
The pledge of allegiance, nevertheless, might have dangerous consequences for Nigerian security, because an empowered ISWAP could have the potential to attack the Nigerian military.
According to the latest figures by the United Nations, some 350,000 people have died as a result of the 12-year insurgency and subsequent humanitarian crisis in Nigeria.
Vincent Foucher, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research who is an expert on West African politics, said the video proves that ISWAP was gaining control, as the group increasingly claims attacks in areas that have traditionally been Boko Haram’s zones of influence.
In addition, a drop in violence against civilians in areas where Boko Haram operated shows the consolidation of power and control by ISWAP, he added.
Other experts, however, dismissed the video as propaganda, stressing that it did not feature senior Boko Haram leaders.
“Boko Haram is still very much divided” and it will continue to fight against ISWAP, said Bulama Bukarti, a senior analyst with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
Previously in 2015, Boko Haram’s leader had released an audio message in which he appeared to be pledging allegiance to Daesh.