LAGOS (Reuters) - The leader of Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram praises jihadist movements across the globe and singled out the United States, Britain, Israel and Nigeria as enemies in a new video, according to a translation by the SITE monitoring service.
The 39-minute video “Glad Tidings, O Soldiers of Allah”, posted in a jihadist forum, features a speech by sect leader Abubakar Shekau with an unusually international focus for a group that has often seemed more pre-occupied with local gripes.
Unlike previous video speeches, which he delivered in his native Hausa tongue, the one posted on Thursday is in Arabic. Shekau pledges solidarity with Islamist fighters everywhere.
“Nigeria and other crusaders, meaning America and Britain, should witness, and the Jews of Israel who are killing the Muslims in Palestine should witness ... that we are with our mujahideen brothers in the cause of Allah everywhere,” he said, according to SITE’s translation.
The video appears to confirm the fears of security agents that Boko Haram has ambitions to join forces with other Islamist groups pursuing a more explicitly global, anti-Western agenda - like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), based in Mali.
Almost 3,000 people have been killed in fighting since Boko Haram launched an uprising in northern Nigeria in mid-2009, enraged by the death of its former leader Mohammed Yusuf in police custody during a crackdown on the sect.
The video wishes “glad tidings” on Islamist warriors in “Islamic Maghreb” (the Sahara) and “the Islamic State in Mali”, as well as Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and “usurped Palestine”.
He list “martyrs” in the global fight against world powers like Britain and the United States, including Osama bin-Laden.
“Don’t think that jihad stops with the death of imams, because imams are individuals,” he tells them. “Think how many sheikhs and men were martyred ... Did jihad stop? No. Jihad doesn’t stop until Allah wills it to be stopped.”
The video ends with footage of fighters undergoing military training, then cuts to weapons and equipment it alleges were taken as spoils from the enemy, SITE’s translation says.
Boko Haram’s favourite targets are usually local in character: Nigerian security forces, Christian worshippers or any politicians and clerics who speak out against it.
It has only claimed responsibility for one attack on a Western target - a bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Abuja that killed 24 people in August last year - but security analysts fear it could soon carry out more attacks like this.
Security sources say Boko Haram has for years been sending fighters to train with AQIM in the Sahara. Some set up camp in Timbuktu after Malian Islamists seized control of it in June.
“Boko Haram may be Nigeria-centric with respect to its attacks, but it clearly sees itself as part of the broader international jihadist movement,” said Jacob Zenn, analyst at the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation.
Editing by Sophie Hares