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Sun 8 Mar 2015 11:48 AM

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Nigeria's Boko Haram pledges allegiance to ISIL

Audio clip urges all Muslims to obey ISIL leader

Nigeria's Boko Haram pledges allegiance to ISIL
Image for illustrative purpose only.

Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram
pledged allegiance on Saturday to ISIL, which rules a self-declared caliphate
in parts of Iraq and Syria, according to an audio clip posted online.

The symbolic move highlights increased coordination
between jihadi movements across north Africa and the Middle East and prompted
an appeal from Nigeria's government for greater international help in tackling
the Boko Haram insurgency.

Boko Haram has killed thousands and kidnapped
hundreds during its six-year campaign to carve out an Islamist state in
northern Nigeria. In recent months it has increased cross-border raids into
Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

"We announce our allegiance to the Caliph...
and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and
ease," read an English language translation of the audio broadcast in
Arabic that purported to be from the Nigerian militant group.

"We call upon Muslims everywhere to pledge
allegiance to the Caliph," it read.

The pledge of allegiance was attributed to Boko
Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.

The audio script identified the Caliph as Ibrahim
ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Awad al-Qurashi, who is better known as Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL and self-proclaimed caliph of the Muslim world.
"(The audio) is confirming what we always thought. It's sad, it's
bad," said Nigerian government spokesman Mike Omeri.

"It's why we were appealing to the
international community ... Hopefully the world will wake up to the disaster
unfolding here," he told Reuters.

On Saturday, four bomb blasts killed at least 50
people in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri in the worst attacks
there since Boko Haram militants tried to seize the town in two major assaults
earlier this year.

ISIL's Baghdadi has already accepted pledges of
allegiance from other jihadist groups in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan
and north Africa.

Analysts said Boko Haram's move came as no
surprise.

"Boko Haram has followed a trend that only led
(us) to anticipate the release of this audio, mimicking ISIL propaganda and
approach to military methods, and calling its fighters soldiers of the
Caliphate," said Laith Alkhouri, director of the Middle East and North
Africa research and jihadi threat intelligence at Flashpoint Partners.

"The ISIL, unlike al Qaeda, did not seem to
shun Shekau, it accepted his thuggish persona and lack of Islamic
knowledge."

This month, Boko Haram released a video purporting
to show it beheading two men, its first online posting using advanced graphics
and editing techniques similar to footage from ISIL.

"Boko Haram is now being elevated from a local
jihadi group to an important arm of the ISIL. With Boko Haram's wide network in
North Africa, the ISIL's projection of creating an Islamic Caliphate is gaining
headway," said Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group.

"Furthermore, ISIL's infrastructure, resources
and military capabilities will enable Boko Haram to expand its operations and
control even faster in North Africa."