Boko Haram’s leader said he has created an Islamic caliphate in a northeast Nigeria town seized by the insurgents earlier this month, in a video obtained by Agency France-Presse on Sunday.
“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in (the town of) Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 52-minute video.
He declared that Gwoza, in Borno state, now has “nothing to do with Nigeria.”
– Military weakness –
While the rebels have grown stronger, secured powerful new weapons and refreshed their ranks with new conscripts, military failures are largely to blame for the worsening crisis, multiple sources said.
“For whatever reason, our soldiers, who are capable of defeating Boko Haram terrorists, were starved of the necessary weapons,” said a senior security source in Borno’s capital Maiduguri.
He noted that Boko Haram had taken over larges swathes of northern Borno before May last year.
When the state of emergency was declared, the military launched a massive offensive which temporarily flushed the rebels from their strongholds.
But, said the security source, top brass failed to sustain the pressure.
Boko Haram “would have been completely crushed had the tempo of the offensive been sustained”, he told AFP.
“I assure you it will not take much effort to crush them if provided with the needed weapons,” he added.
Lack of arms for troops has become a flashpoint issue, and soldiers this week refused to deploy to Gwoza without better weapons in an apparent mutiny.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and top economy and some observers have put the defence budget at roughly $6 billion (4.5 billion euros) per year.
If troops are chronically ill-equipped, corruption and inefficiency are the likely causes, rather than a lack of resources, experts say.
Most agree that force alone cannot end the five-year conflict and must be coupled with major economic development in the desperately poor northeast.
– Not ‘Islamic State’ –
In a July video, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau voiced support for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State (IS) extremists who have captured parts of Iraq and Syria and claimed the grisly execution of US journalist James Foley.
The mention of Baghdadi was unusual for Shekau, who in videos often appears completely detached from current events.
Jacob Zenn, an analyst at the US-based Jamestown Foundation, said there were similarities between IS and Boko Haram, notably their shocking levels of brutality.
Boko Haram has among other crimes massacred thousands of defenceless civilians, opened fire on students sleeping in their dorms, kidnapped hundreds of children, including more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in April.
But while the United States has described IS as “beyond anything” it has seen in terms of funding, weaponry and strategic sophistication, Boko Haram is largely made up of poor, uneducated youths with almost no tactical training.
The group is thought to have ties to outside jihadi groups but the extent of those links is not clear.
Boko Haram “has not reached that level of sophistication”, Comolli told AFP, referring to IS, but said Shekau’s mention of Baghdadi was noteworthy.
Boko Haram, she said, is “watching what is going on”.