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Linkages Between Boko Haram and ISIS

Sandeep Jain Writes: The links between the two organisations may well be ideological rather than a manifestation of physical support, funding or training. While both are driven by Wahabi Sunni ideology, the big difference between the two is geography.

ISIS has recently come into prominence and with the recent Paris attack has captured global imagination. While the group had been in existence in various forms since 1999 it only got highlighted in the last few years when it captured swaths of Iraq and Syria. It became a true concern once it declared the formation of the Global Caliphate in 2014. Since then it has increasingly come into alliance, both ideological as well as physical, with other Sunni groups such as Jabhat Al Nusra and Al Qaida forming the Al Nusra front. Of late however, there are reports of differences having cropped up with Al Qaida. These appear to be personality conflicts over control and leadership rather than that of goals. ISIS also has been collaborating with Taliban.

Boko Haram originated primarily in Nigeria in 2002 to oppose growing western influence in a largely Islamic society. It has since then has had a long history of terrorist attacks, abductions, killings and so on causing massive displacements of populations. The 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok catapulted it to international notoriety. Of late the Nigerian state forces are in a bitter struggle to destroy the bases of Boko Haram. The group in Mar 2015 has also declared its allegiance to ISIS.

The links between the two organisations may well be ideological rather than a manifestation of physical support, funding or training. While both are driven by Wahabi Sunni ideology, the big difference between the two is geography. Boko Haram is essentially a regional phenomenon with local recruits. In addition to the ideology, control over oil money of Nigeria may also be one of the factors in its rise. There is little historical affinity between the two regions which have spawned these two groups. Even the circumstances of their rise differ. In the case of ISIS the colonial boundaries of Syria and Iraq, dismantling of the regimes by the West as also Saudi and oil funding may have been the causative factors. Boko Haram on the other hand is a political phenomenon peculiar to the region of West Africa including Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. It may have been partially assisted in its rise by the global war on terror (in Iraq and Afghanistan) but not directly so as was the case with ISIS. Unlike ISIS Boko Haram does not seem to have any global ambitions either.

Nonetheless ideology remains a binding factor. The possibility of loaning few fighters to each other in times of adversity and doctrinal congruence remains very much a possibility. Till recently while ISIS was awash with funds, possibility of its extending some financial support to Boko Haram by way financing its arms purchase did exist. This scenario has however, receded for the time being due to West targeting the oil convoys of ISIS post the Paris attacks.

The ideological moorings in the long term may prove to be more dangerous than physical support as they have the portents of keeping movements alive even in the face of adversity.

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