Nigerian Islamist militia group, Boko Haram has declared the area of Gwoza as part of ISIS’ Caliphate.
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau made the announcement in a video message earlier today.
The news agency AFP obtained a video shot in the northeast Nigerian town of Gwoza, in Borno state, which shows Abubakar Shekau declaring the Caliphate, in the city.
“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 52-minute video, according to AFP. “By the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay.”
Gwoza is now “nothing to do with Nigeria” he said. The group, designated a terror organisation by the US, control large chunks of territory in Borno state and some in the neighbouring Yobe state.
The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) earlier this month confirmed reports that Gwoza was under rebel control.
Boko Haram is also believed to be in control of other areas near Gwoza in southern Borno, as well as large swathes of territory in northern Borno and at least one town in neighbouring Yobe state. Nigerian soldiers have reportedly refused to deploy to retake the town, because of a lack of adequate weapons.
The Al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) also declared the establishment of the Caliphate on Sunday 29th June, stretching from Raqqa in Syria to Diyala in Iraq.
Boko Haram is a Hausa (a tribe from the north of Nigeria) word meaning “western education is forbidden”. The group formed in 2001 and they started by warning people against anything associated with the western world. This included polio immunisation exercises, describing it as an act of westerners to “contain the growth of the Muslim population”. They stated that polio was a “family planning” agenda targeted at the Muslims of Nigeria through the sterilisation of young girls.
To begin with, they got an overwhelming support from local clerics and the residents of the northern city of Kano who perceived them to be the vanguards of Islam in Nigeria. In their early years, the organisation remained totally non-violent and it was a case of an ideological battle and a “war of words” with the Nigerian government.
At present, Boko Haram is listed as a terrorist organisation by most western governments including the US and the UK. A brutal crackdown was launched by the Nigerian authorities to detain their leaders and members in order to quell its growing influence among the young Muslim population. It was the crackdown in 2009 which led to Boko Haram turning to violence, justified under the pretext of “self-defence”. Once Boko Haram took up arms against the government, it gained momentous support by recruiting more Muslim youth and others from major religious dominions in Nigeria.
The violent clashes between the federal government of Nigeria and Boko Haram began in July 2009 when the group launched a series of attacks on police stations in the state of Bauchi. The battle between Boko Haram fighters and the Nigerian Police Force spread to Kano, Yobe, Borno and eventually across the whole of north eastern Nigeria, which resulted in the deaths of thousands including civilians.
On 14th April the group abducted a total of 276 girls from the north-eastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing.
Abubakar Shekau has threatened to sell the girls “at a market” and some are believed to have already been taken out of the country.