As an appropriate follow-on to the Islamic State West Africa Province's self-history, it is worth comparing its account of how the allegiance pledge of 'Boko Haram' (Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad) to the Islamic State came to be with this 2015 account from an outlet called Ifriqiya lil-Ilam (Africa Media). This account, written by someone who worked as a contact official in Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia, tells the story of how he connected with someone from the media office of 'Boko Haram' and tried to help him disseminate releases from the group.
For context, Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia was a jihadi movement that emerged in Tunisia following the revolution that deposed Tunisia's president Ben Ali. Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia did not formally acknowledge links with other jihadi groups. By this account though, there were at least attempts to contact a variety of global jihadi actors.
Initially operating with considerable freedom, Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia proved to be an important feeder network for the Syrian jihad, explaining why the number of Tunisian fighters recorded in the mobilisation counts is particularly high. Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia was formally outlawed as a terrorist group by the Tunisian government in August 2013.
By the author's own account, many people who had been Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia joined what would become the Islamic State, but others remained in the al-Qa'ida-loyalist Jabhat al-Nusra. As for the network that remained in North Africa, the author, who is himself pro-Islamic State, portrays it as having largely become loyal to the Islamic State, only to be held back from a formal allegiance pledge by Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia's amir Abu Iyadh al-Tunisi. For comparison, one should note Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia's Eid al-Fitr message in 2014 that came only a month after the Caliphate declaration. In that message, the group extended tribute to both al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This corroborates the idea that there was substantial pro-Islamic State sentiment in the group, but Abu Iyadh al-Tunisi did not wish to give allegiance.
In this account, the author draws an analogy between the state of Ansar al-Shari'a Tunisia and the state of 'Boko Haram', quoting his Nigerian contact as saying that the group's members wanted to give allegiance but there was hesitation on the part of "the leadership" (al-qiyada, rather than al-qa'id- "the leader") because of "some doubts," and so the consultation council (Majlis Shura) was studying the matter. Were these doubts on the part of Shekau himself? It is not made explicitly clear in the text, but the general image drawn of a group as a whole wanting to give allegiance while the amir holds back may suggest that. This inference, if correct, would be interesting considering the author's admiration for Shekau. The Islamic State West Africa Province's account is that Shekau had no choice but to give allegiance if he wanted to preserve his position as leader of the group. To try to prove this point, the two Barnawi brothers who wrote the account quote a recording of Shekau, in which Shekau mentions that he was approached and informed about the rise of the Islamic State, and then says he urged for people to wait until more certain news should come to him regarding this Islamic State project. With pressure and rumours mounting, he called a meeting to discuss the matter.
Thanks goes to Jacob Zenn who drew this text to my attention, which follows in full below (NB: explanations of terms in square brackets). For those interested in more 'Boko Haram' primary sources, see the book "The Boko Haram Reader" edited by Abdulbassit Kassim and Michael Nwankpa.
Ifriqiya lil-Ilam presents:
Scattered words and documenting an important period that preceded the allegiance pledge of Sheikh Shekau that made the Ummah happy.
I was entrusted years ago with the task of contacting the rest of the jihadi groups and Islamic emirates in the name of Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia: that is, coordinating and making available aid to them in so far as our group could as were blessed at the time with freedom of movement and a plethora of capabilities and cadres in various fields. And I established through my work team in that time multiple contacts- direct or through intermediaries- with a large number of the emirates and groups, like our brothers in the Islamic State of Iraq previously (currently the Islamic State- the State of the Caliphate), Jabhat al-Nusra previously, the Islamic Emirate in the Greater Sahara, Qa'idat al-Jihad in Bilad al-Maghrib [AQIM], Tanzim al-Qa'ida in the Jazirat al-Arab [AQAP], the Islamic Emirate in the Caucasus, jihadi groups in occupied Palestine, Sinai of might, Libya, and the land of the Persians, and jihadi groups and sleeper cells in Europe and North America.
And some of those whom we contacted did not know the truth of our affiliation with Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia but they knew our individual capacity and that was for special security reasons. And reports would be referred to those higher in rank than we were that they might convey them to the leadership, in order that it might study them and give instructions and directives. And our leadership was generous, open-handed and was not miserly towards any group or emirate for support when it demanded that, for soldiers, wealth, cadres and experts were sent, and courses and training courses were established by the grace of God Almighty, and in that path did the martyrs depart, and prisoners were taken. We ask God to reward them best.
And despite that, there remained one group that struck me in particular and was tantamount to the enigma for me at the time. I would always say to my work team: "We must reach them. Even if the matter requires, I will travel myself and look for them." That group was Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad bi Bilad Ifriqiya.
That group was obscure and subject to a terrible campaign of distortion.
For sometimes they would call it Boko Haram, and sometimes they would say about it that it was from the people of extremism and was killing Muslims without distinction, and sometimes they would say that they are Khawarij (at a time when the Nigerian government are disbelieving Christians), and sometimes they would say it is an intelligence group. And the strange thing is that the group was issuing multiple visual released but they weren't available on the well-known jihadi forums, though you might find some of them by chance on one of the sites for uploading videos.
And when the Sahwa forces of al-Sham began to appear, and the treachery of the disobedient son began to appear to the eyes, and his gang began to broadcast the same accusations and lies about the Islamic State that were said about Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad, I pledged to myself to focus on finding a means to contact the group. For the oppression was strong, and could only be felt by the one who lived through it. You can say that I had lived through it in general at the beginning of 2014 after I lost a number of the best of my brothers from the veterans of Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia who became soldiers in the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and were subsequently killed in treachery at the hands of the gangs of Sahwaji democracy and the gang of al-Jowlani. And their women and children were lost and their news was cut off.
The tragedy is when some of those you know from the Jowlani front would tell you so-and-so was killed by such-and-such group. And I was witness to that. Then they kidnapped his wife and children. You tell them: what is the matter with you that you did nothing at the time? What is the matter with you that you did not free his wife and children? They would tell you: instructions that we should not intervene: a problem between "the Khawarij" and the disbelievers in which we have no business.
Fasubhanullah: the peak of oppression and insolence. The sons of Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia who are the soldiers of the Islamic State transformed into "Khawarij." As for those in the Jowlani gang from the sons of Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia, they are good, believing Muslims, and not from the "Khawarij"? Were they not with you in the Jowlani front and when Jowlani broke his allegiance pledge to his amir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and came out against him out of love for the amir position and desiring authority, they left him and returned under the amir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Was not Sheikh al-Adnani your amir and a deputy for Jowlani and when Jowlani came out against his amir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Adnani left him and returned under the command of the amir al-Baghdadi, may God protect him? So God's curse be upon the oppressive, lying people, and God's curse be upon all who have been silent about the killing of a Muslim and rape of a Muslim woman out of love for the amir position and desiring authority.
So if this was the wrong cast against the Islamic State, news of whom would reach us on a real-time basis such that we could know the truth from falsehood and distinguish, what then of the wrong cast against Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad, news of whom would not reach us, apart from the lies and accusations of the enemies? For I used to spend the hours in prayer and imploring God so that my Lord might make easy for me the ability to contact the group and participate in helping it at least in media through what remained of the cadres of Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia inside and outside Tunisia before it was too late. And I would send the hours looking in different languages for the group's releases until I confirmed quite a number of their sparse releases or scattered clips broadcast by the disbelieving journalists affiliated with AFP, and I read most of what was written about the group in different languages, whether from the side of the disbelievers, the hypocrites or the ansar (despite their paucity in number). What raised my attention was that the creed of the group was pure, unadulterated (praise be to God), fighting the disbelievers entirely and loyalty to the Muslims entirely without extremism or softening.
For the group would declare takfir even on the Ikhwanites and the Murj'ites because of their entry into democracy, and in that time no group or emirate dared to declare that except the Islamic State of Iraq in 2007 on the tongue of the Amir al-Mu'mineen Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (may God accept him) as far as I know. Then the blessed operation that shook the entire world happened: the group's kidnapping of dozens of the Christian girls, and after that Sheikh Abu Bakr Shekau- may God protect him- said in a famous release that they would sell them in the slave market. By God, how excellent was he to be the first to have revived the Sunna of taking captive the disbelievers according to my knowledge, and he most severely enraged the hypocrites, disbelievers and apostates, and the group became the talk of the entire world. And the 'ulama of the court in every place began to denounce it and issue statements taking them outside of God's religion by condemning what is well known from the religion and forbidding it. So Sheikh Shekau and his group, by God's grace, were another reason for distinguishing the ranks and putting them through a sieve, and dividing the people into two camps: the camp of faith with no hypocrisy in it, and the camp of kufr with no faith in it.
Sheikh Abu Bakr Shekau was arousing and continues to arouse my admiration through his intention in every release to enrage the disbelievers and apostates through his particular way, and he was well-skilled in that- truly excellent- with a fine spontaneity bringing joy on the Muslims and enraging in particular the hypocrites and apostates. And peradventure among the strongest ways of enraging the disbelievers that I admired: when he begins his speech with strong fury, then suddenly goes silent, to put the twig of the Arak tree in his mouth without regard, placing all the followers of the release on stand-by. Or when he appeared in a new release to speak about the kidnapped Christian girls to say while smiling: "Those kidnapped Christian girls have converted to Islam."
And perhaps the position that most outraged the disbelievers and was strongest in doing so was the segment in which he pronounced the truth in declaring takfir on the Murj'ites, democrats, followers of the Tejaniya order and other erroneous deviant sects, then he emptied the bullets of his machine gun in the air and threw it on the ground to enrage them more by repeating a melody repeating his name: his name which had become among the strongest of their nightmares: those people and their masters. How could it not be so as his group had begun to expose the lie and hypocrisy of those erroneous sects day after day, and putting an end to the influence of their sects in every town and village they seized after teaching the correct doctrine to the inhabitants of those villages and towns.
Truly you are excellent Sheikh Shekau, and God bless you. I have loved you in God without knowing you, and I singled you out in prayers on every occasion of response. May God protect you and bless your work and jihad. I continued in the journey of searching accompanied with an attempt to reupload the lost released that I obtained after great hardship and publish them on the jihadi forums. And perhaps the most prominent of those releases is a release that documents the destruction of the walls of a prison and freeing of thousands of male and female Muslim prisoners: news about which all the television stations of the world would have spoken for weeks if it had happened in one of the Arab countries.
But since it happened in forgotten Nigeria, no one spoke about it, and were it not for the release no one would have heard of news of the liberation of thousands of Muslims from that prison.
The blessed Caliphate was announced on 1 Ramadan 1435 AH, so all interest from that time was poured out on gathering allegiance pledges to our Caliph and pressuring our leadership in our group, that we might give allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims. And all the group, without exception, began to desire to give allegiance, except the amir Abu Iyadh, may God guide him. And in the flood of great frustration as a result of the amir's rejection of giving allegiance and his insistence on waiting, it happened one of those days that we found a key: a key connecting to Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad. At first I could not believe that the matter should be so simple and easy, but when I was convinced that this person was really from the media office for the group. I did the impossible to contact him but he did not respond. Then one of those nights, a message from his side reached me in English, saying: "As-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu brother." I became overjoyed at the fact the message had been sent and I was at a loss as to what I should write, for hundreds of questions wanted to go out from my mind through my fingers such that I should write them on the keyboard and send them at the same time.
From that day the story began: the story of brotherhood in God between two strangers not knowing each other. I knew him on the basis he was from Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad, and I did not know his name, age or anything about him. And he knew me on the basis that I am a Muslim who offered him help in publishing the releases of the group among Muslims rather than sending them to a disbeliever from AFP, who would only broadcast segments in accordance with his whim without the hoped for message from the releases being conveyed. I informed the work team in Ifriqiya lil-Ilam and advised them on the matter of cooperating with the brothers in Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad, so they rejoiced in that and agreed immediately and asked to secure the connection with the brother so that they should be intermediaries between their groups and Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da'wa wa al-Jihad, and coordinate in finding the means to migrate and cooperate and so forth. May God make things easy in great matters, and praise be to God at the hands of a humble foundation: Ifriqiya lil-Ilam. I was facing difficulty in contacting my Nigerian brother. For my brother spoke excellent Hausa and only a little Arabic and English, while I spoke Arabic and English fluently and did not understand Hausa at all. What you could see most often in our correspondences was the question: "Sorry brother, I did not understand you. Can you repeat to me what you said by another means?" My Muslim brother, whenever he got online: his first question after salam greeting and checking our status would be: ""What is new of the Islamic State and Caliph of the Muslims?" So I would try as soon as possible to convey to him the latest releases and conquests in a few lines and I was wholly eager to hear the news of his group and their state of affairs in that forgotten field: the field of West Africa.
Then with the passing of time, I asked him the question every Muslim was asking at that time: "Has your group given allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims?"
He said to me something that left pain in my heart. He said: "We are all with the Islamic State and we all want to give allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims but the leadership is hesitant because of some doubts and the Majlis al-Shura is studying that matter." This reminded me of our state of affairs in Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia, and the state of affairs of our brothers in other groups in the African Sahel and the Greater Sahara: all of the group prepared to give allegiance and yearning for that and only waiting for the amir to desist from his hesitation and pronounce that. But what were we- Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia- to do if the companions of our amir previously were among the strongest enemies of the Islamic State today and the most prominent liars and inciters against it? Fahasbuna Allah wa na'am al-wakil.
So I began to intensify the prayers every day for God to guide the two sheikhs Abu Bakr Shekau and Abu Iyadh al-Tunisi, as well as others from the leadership of Tanzim Qa'idat al-Jihad bi-Bilad al-Maghrib, the leadership of Tanzim al-Tawheed wa al-Jihad in West Africa, the leadership of al-Murabitun and the leadership of Ansar al-Din. And I prayed that He should clarify the truth of the matter before them and make happy the Muslim Ummah by unity of ranks and fighting under the same banner and giving allegiance to the Caliph.
My Nigerian Muslim brother was dear to my heart, and I loved him very much. And our relations developed to affection in God and strong friendship, and he was most humble, affectionate, and always desiring to learn new things, and he learnt of my anguish at my brothers and sisters stuck in that land called Tunisia: occupied Tunisia. So he urged me to be patient and told me that whenever oppression grows strong and its force grows mighty, its end is near and victory approaches. And he highlighted to me examples of that in what happened to them in Nigeria previously at the hands of the Christians and hypocrites from massacres and crimes, so they endured and remained steadfast in their religion, for the outcome was for the pious and God today opened up conquest for them. May God protect him.
In order to upload one of the group's releases, he had to travel to a place some 300 km away from his village, as mobile phone network coverage would be available to upload a release of poor quality on an upload site, and the time for uploading this release, whose size did not exceed 50 MBs, took 9 whole hours. Then he would give me the link to re-upload it on a number of sites with the help of some of the brothers specialized in Rapidleech. Then we would publish it in the forums and on the page of Ifriqiya lil-'Ilam.
Subhanuallah. You, oh people for whom high speed Internet is available, and yet you waste time on hearsay, crap and nonsense. Then, when you saw the group's releases that we published, you complained of their poor quality. Then you don't publish them and you hurry to watch the releases of high quality of our beloved state and publish them. Did you know what your brothers went through to convey those poor quality releases to you? If a video of 50 MBs takes 9 whole hours to upload, what do you imagine then if its quality were high as you like and its size 300 MBs? How much time would it take to upload? 54 hours in total. This is so if a cut-off doesn't happen because of the poor network or end of charge in the battery.
Imagine. Your Muslim brother spends 54 hours in the land of the Christian enemy to upload a release for you in high quality, that your eminence may be pleased and publish the release? I saw those comments and wished to respond to them and my whole heart felt anguish for my Nigerian Muslim media guy brother, then I kept silent, moved on and prayed for God to ordain for him his reward. Subsequently we tried to establish connection between our brother and our media guy brothers in the beloved Islamic State and the groups supporting it in Africa, and praise be to God, the desired coordination arose months later, and the blessed Mu'assasat al-Urwa al-Wuthqa was established, and a special transmission was achieved in the quality of the releases. May God bless all who facilitated that and strove for that from near and afar. And that was a key to refute the doubts that some of the hyenas and crows strove to publish in the field of West Africa- they got to the point of sending an envoy from them to there in an attempt to convince the group not to give allegiance to the Caliph at all as they did in the Caucasus, Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia. And despite that, and by the grace of God the Exalted and Almighty, the group's leadership, represented in Sheikh Abu Bakr Shekau, decided to give allegiance to the Caliph in order for ranks to be united, the force to be strengthened, and in order for the enemies of God to become enraged. And my Nigerian brother jested with me preparing for me to receive the news, so he asked something of me I could not fulfill, and I said to him contact the brothers in the Islamic State and they will carry it out by God's permission. He said: "I fear they will not help me because we have not given allegiance to them until now." I said to him: "How can they not help you when you are a Muslim who seeks their support? It is impossible for our brothers in the Islamic State to do that when I know them, and if you want, I will speak to them and request that on your behalf." He said to me: "Rejoice brother, I am joking with you. And soon you will hear what will make you and them rejoice by God's permission."
Then he informed me of the news of the allegiance pledge days before it was published, so we (those working in Ifriqiya lil-llam) wept tears out of joy over this happy news and prostrated to God in thanks, and the blessed allegiance pledge was announced in that release that the Muslims saw and heard. And how much I hoped that the release would have been visual, in order for Sheikh Shekau to increase the rage and sadness of the hypocrites, crows and hyenas. And all who listen to the speech can sense the strong emotion in Sheikh Shekau's voice especially in the last of the speech, in that the Sheikh- may God protect him- was on the verge of weeping from the intensity of the position and his great happiness that God made him a cause in closing ranks and enraging the enemies of God, to the point that when I heard in his voice that emotion and that tone that was untypical of him (by virtue of the fact I had followed him and his releases and was familiar with his personality and nature), my tears flowed and I wished I could embrace him and tell him of my love for him in God.
And I wished that Sheikh Abu Iyadh al-Tunisi had known the anguish of his soldiers inside and outside Tunisia: the free of them, the prisoners and the martyrs, and how they had hoped that he would follow his brother Abu Bakr Shekau and give allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims and not keep us away from this blessing and news. We ask God to guide him as He guided Sheikh Shekau and Sheikh al-Masri so he should give allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims, especially as he has no allegiance pledge on his neck to anyone as of the time of writing these lines.
We ask God to remove from him the crows and hyenas of al-Sham, remove the veil from his eyes, and that he should see the clear truth and give allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims: that the ranks may be united, the force may be strengthened and God may bless the work.
Congratulations to you, our brothers in the land of Africa for the great good and honour of transforming from the soldiers of a group to the soldiers of the Caliph of the Muslims. Congratulations to you, our brothers in the land of Africa, as you realized what some of the Muslims of the Arabs have not realized, despite the fact you are among the non-Arabs and are not masters of the Arabic language. Congratulations to you, our brothers in the land of Africa, for having learnt then implementing what you have learnt. Congratulations to you, our brothers in land of Africa, for bringing joy and delight into the hearts of the Muslims and enraging the disbelievers. Congratulations to us, the team of Ifriqiya lil-Ilam, the soldiers of Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia, the soldiers of the Caliphate in Tunisia, and soldiers of Tawheed and Jihad in Africa, the soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria, the soldiers of Tawheed in the land of the Franks, the contingents of jihad in the land of Europe, some of the soldiers of Tawheed and Jihad in West Africa and some of the soldiers of Qa'idat al-Jihad in Bilad al-Maghrib, as we participated, even if in small part, in this blessed allegiance pledge and this great good.
And we ask God to bless us in this this and guide the leaderships of our groups that have not given allegiance till now, that they may unite the ranks and give allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims.
As we know that regrettably most of those who read our long articles are from the disbelievers, apostates and hypocrites, we conclude by challenging to mubahala the disbelievers, apostates, idolaters, secularists, modernists, moderates, adherents of Islam of enlightenment, tolerance, modernism, Qur'anism, America and secularism, the sheikhs of fabrication and falsehood from the 'ulama of hypocrisy and shoes of authority, those who claim a doctorate, to be thinkers and to be of good understanding and analysis, and imams of damage and preachers of the pulpits of shame, let all who read this be assured:
Oh Muslims, secure and bring God's curse on the liars: "Oh God, indeed the people have claimed that the mujahideen- who they call terrorists- are Khawarij, dogs of the people of hell, erroneous and misguided, who have not understood Your religion, book, sunna of Your Prophet and have distorted Islam; and that they kill "Muslims" without right, and that they kill the Western disbelievers from Jews, Christians, atheists and worshippers of idols out of falsehood with no principle for it in the religion. And they have claimed that the mujahideen- the "terrorists" as they call them- are fornicators and have done deeds of the people of Lot, and that their women are prostitutes who engage in what they have called "jihad al-nikah." And they have claimed that whoever of the is killed at the hands of the police and armies of the Arab states is eternally confined to hell, and that the rulers, leaders, ministers, and officials of the Arab states, their armies and police, and those affiliated with the political parties, advocates of participation in democracy, and their supporters and those loyal to them, are Muslim, believing monotheists who have understood Your religion, applied it, obeyed You and have not disobeyed You.
And they claim that the one of them who dies at the hands of the "terrorist" mujahideen is a martyr entering Paradise and the one of the "terrorist" mujahideen who kills him will enter Hellfire. Oh God, we bear witness to you that what we have mentioned above from what these people have said is a lie and falsehood, deception and distortion of Your religion, distorting the best of Your servants, and there is in it what is in it from the lie of kufr and grave matter.
Oh God, whoso of us is a liar, place Your curse on him, and show us in him a sign, and make him a lesson.
Oh God, whoso of us is a liar, place Your curse on him, and show us in him a sign, and make him a lesson.
Oh God, whoso of us is a liar, place Your curse on him, and show us in him a sign, and make him a lesson.
Oh God, all who hath conspired against Islam and Muslims, turn his ploy on him, expose his secret, expose his inner secret, and make him a lesson to the one who considers. Oh God, bring on him ills and tribulations."
And to God, His Messenger and the believers are might but the hypocrites do not know. And God is predominant over His affair but most of the people do not know. And the last of our calls is praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.