On its Facebook page, al-Shabaab’s official media outlet Radio al-Andalus expressed support for Boko Haram’s abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state.
Mimicking a ceremony al-Shabaab held with Kenyan hostages, Boko Haram claimed in a recent video that over 100 of the girls had “converted” to Islam as the hostages were shown reciting prayers.
Andalus argues that the abduction is justified as a result of the Nigerian government’s abuses against Muslims and that Boko Haram–whose large-scale attacks on civilians are well-known–“rescued” the young girls from these injustices.
As a pretext for its argument, Andalus in one post shows a series of images which it claims are Nigerian policemen forcing injured or disabled Muslims to the ground as a “young Christian” officer appears to execute them. The post also notes that Muslims should argue against these actions and “seek blood” in revenge.
In another post, Andalus asks about what should be the fate of the abducted girls. The text reads:
1. Should they be released without conditions?
2. Should they be given freedom for a ransom?
3. Should they be given to other jihadists so that 200 more boys can be born to join the mujahideen?
The post claims that all three options are allowed under Shari’a if the girls are labelled as part of the “infidels” or “disbelievers.”
Andalus also argues that Boko Haram’s actions are less inhumane than the government’s mistreatment of Muslims in Nigerian jails, where it claims abuses similar to those at the infamous Abu Graib prison in Iraq and Mogadishu’s Xalane military camp have occurred.
Lastly, the post invokes the suffering of young Chechen girls–whose suffering at the hands of Russian troops has caused many to support the jihadist cause.
There is little chance that the abducted girls will be released without conditions.
Initially, the Nigerian government rejected Boko Haram’s offer for a hostage-prisoner exchange, but in a recent report a government official says this option is on the table.
Claims from sources in Nigeria that some girls having been “married off” near the Cameroon border–which Andalus suggested as option #3–have been hard to confirm.
Other analysts have discussed the possibility of a ransom for the girls’ release–which Andalus suggested as option #2. Notably, there is an alleged precedent for this in dealing with Boko Haram.
Boko Haram and al-Shabaab
Links between the two groups have been debated, but in the past Boko Haram has claimed that its suicide bombers have been trained in Somalia. Many reports also say Abuja bombing mastermind Mamman Nur received similar assistance in Somalia. Stig Jarle Hasen’s recent book on al-Shabaab argues that there have certainly been Nigerian jihadists that have fought with al-Shabaab.
More broadly, some recent reports have claimed that online jihadists have been perturbed and avoided condoning Boko Haram’s most recent high-profile operation that was “too extreme” even in radical circles.
However, al-Shabaab’s radio outlet shows that there is plenty of room for jihadists to justify Boko Haram’s abduction on their own terms and that support exists for the group’s actions.