Nigeria’s Boko Haram have become the second Islamist militant group in just two months to declare a “caliphate”, in a video message from its leader.
The news agency AFP obtained a video shot in the northeast Nigerian town of Gwoza, in Borno state, which shows leader Abubakar Shekau declaing a new caliphate, an Islamic state, 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.
“By the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay,” said Shekau, who has been designated a global terrorist by the United States and sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
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.
Boko Haram, a name meaning ‘Western Education is Forbidden’ have famously targeted schools and earlier this year kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls, many of whom remain missing. The ensuing violence as the group took territory has caused nearly 650,000 to flee their homes, according to the UN.
But Boko Haram is technically only a nickname. Their preferred name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, which means “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad”.
In June, the group known as Isis or Isil which controls vast swathes of eastern Syrian and northern Iraq declared that territory a caliphate, naming itself Islamic State. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is referred to as Caliph Ibrahim. The Caliphate, where Shia Muslims, Christians and minority sects have been persecuted, massacred or forced to flee, has no international recognition.