Islamic State accepts Boko Haram allegiance pledge

2015-03-13 12:43

Beirut – The Islamic State has accepted a pledge of allegiance from West Africa’s Boko Haram, according to an audio recording released by the extremist militia.

In a message posted on Islamic State’s media arm al-Furqan late yesterday, spokesperson Abu Mohammed al-Adnani announced the expansion of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate to West Africa following Boko Haram’s pledge.

Boko Haram has been launching attacks in northern Nigeria since 2009.

In the recording, which has not been independently verified, al-Adnani also predicted that his jihadist movement would expand into other mostly Muslim countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

Islamic State already controls considerable territory in Iraq and Syria.

In the 30-minute recording, al-Adnani named Italy, France, Britain and the United States as potential targets of attacks by Islamic State.

He repeatedly played down ongoing military action by a US-led coalition and Iraqi forces against jihadists in Iraq.

“They are only illusions,” he said. “We are sure of victory. God is on our side and gives us the strength to combat the crusaders.”

In recent months, Iraqi troops backed by US-led airstrikes have sought to drive the radical Sunni militia out of the country.

Today, government troops and allied Shiite militiamen were moving slowly into the strategic northern city of Tikrit, hampered by bombs and sniper fire from Islamic State militants, official al-Iraqiya TV reported, citing a military official.

“The organisation [Islamic State] still controls the presidential complex and three other districts in the centre of Tikrit,” the unnamed official said.

“The army’s progress is being blocked by snipers and bomb explosions.”

On Wednesday, government troops entered Tikrit, which is located about 180km north of the capital Baghdad, as part of a major operation against Islamic State in northern Iraq.

Tikrit, the hometown of late dictator Saddam Hussein, is strategically situated between Baghdad and the Islamic State-held city of Mosul.

Iraqi forces have over the past two days been engaged in street battles against Islamic State fighters in the district of al-Qadiyysia, in the northern part of Tikrit, according to local media.

“The troops fighting to liberate Tikrit have been confined to the centre of al-Qadiyysia due to the large numbers of explosives devices planted there,” a military source told independent news site Almada Press.

Establishing full control over Tikrit would make it easier for government forces to recapture Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

Earlier this month, Iraq launched a major operation to dislodge Islamic State out of northern Iraq. The offensive is Iraq’s biggest since the al-Qaeda splinter militia swept across the country in June.

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