The leader of the "Islamic State" militant group has reportedly accepted the allegiance of Boko Haram. Both groups appear to have suffered setbacks, with IS calling for some fighters to travel to West Africa.
A spokesman for "Islamic State" (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Thursday said the self-appoointed caliph accepted Boko Haram's pledge of allegiance.
"Our caliph, God save him, has accepted the pledge of loyalty of our brothers of Boko Haram so we congratulate Muslims and our jihadi brothers in West Africa," said IS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.
Boko Haram has been fighting a six-year insurgency aimed at imposing Muslim Shariah law in Nigeria, and it has recently widened the scope of its operations to include Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
'New door opens'
In the audio message, Adnani called on Muslims who could not join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to enter combat in Africa. Instead, he said, the pledge by Boko Haram had opened a "new door for you to migrate to the land of Islam and fight."
The Boko Haram pledge to IS came on Saturday, when an audiotape surfaced that was attributed to Boko Haram leader Abubaktar Shekau. "We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims," Shekau said.
Boko Haram's violent insurgency has killed more than 13,000 people since 2009, and forced about 1.5 million from their homes. It appears that Boko Haram has lost territory in recent days, in part thanks to a four-nation military offensive involving Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
rc/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)