Back in April, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) declared itself to be an Islamic caliphate and began calling itself the Islamic State with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph or leader. Now, Boko Haram has declared an Islamic caliphate in the town of Gwoza in Northern Nigeria. It may seem like they’re starting small given that the Islamic State in Iraq is basically pretty huge in terms of territory and has around 500 million U.S. dollars under its belt that it stole but it’s a start.
The extremist group Boko Haram likely came to your attention during the brief but fierce Twitter campaign #bringourgirlsback. Those girls have never been gotten back and the Nigerian government has had a terrible time fighting them. Indeed, Boko Haram has just continued to raid Nigerian villages and towns, seemingly at will. They’ve killed hundreds of innocents in these enterprises and aren’t showing many signs of stopping any time soon.
Just as interesting is that the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, declared his general support for ISIS and its leader in Iraq and Syria back in July. Given how smalltime Boko Haram is compared to ISIS the desire for some sort of declared alliance might seem like wishful thinking and, while it may be, there’s one player in West Africa that’s Islamist to the bone and that the American press isn’t talking about much right now and that’s al-Qa’ida in Mali.
Traditionally, extremists in Mali have been closely aligned with the al-Qa’ida that brought down the World Trade Center towers but ISIS has put pressure on al-Qai’da as the two groups compete for leadership of a population of Islamic extremists stretching from the Middle East west across northern Africa. While Malian al-Qa’ida affiliates are currently sticking with their traditional loyalties, Boko Haram owes a lot to these groups in terms of weapons and training. Therefore, Boko Haram’s seeming defection from al-Qa’ida’s general sphere of influence is notable. If Islamists inside Mali and Libya were to suddenly turn up the aggression in the same manner that ISIS did when they stormed into Iraq then Northern Africa could find itself inflamed in a wide conflict that many of African nations couldn’t weather. Nigeria should have been able to stamp Boko Haram out but the corruption inherent in the nation’s government is largely believed to have hampered that progress. If you can’t get organized then you can’t do what needs to be done and Islamic extremists are, if nothing else, single-minded.
Look for these things. They may not happen but, truly, they well could. And for the record, the below is generally what these caliphate forming extremists are going for, the Islamic Caliphate at its height.