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Brethren in Terror:
Mapping ISIS and Boko Haram
Digital Campaigns

Abubakar Usman Abubakar
Institute of Malaysian & International Studies (IKMAS)
National University Malaysia (UKM)

Increasingly, scholars have been making some attempts to establish similarities among the Islamist radical groups, which are sometimes ideologically and methodologically disparate. ISIS and Boko Haram are two of such groups that have been linked to each other. In March 2015, Boko Haram declared its allegiance to ISIS confirming their long speculated link. Despite claims of connection, it is useful to investigate whether the relationship was formed on the basis of convenience or the two organisations
indeed have a common ideology, approach and objectives. This paper thematically analyses 20 ISIS Arabic Twitter campaigns and 20 Boko Haram’s video messages to compare their ideologies, objectives and approaches. The analysis is carried out using reflexive thematic analysis with the aid of the NVivo 12 Pro application. The analysis of the 20 ISIS Arabic Twitter campaigns yielded four major themes that include recruitment and direct call to jihad, religion, specific message to the targetted audience, and honouring dead members. By contrast, four major themes were also identified from the analysis of Boko Haram video messages namely, ideological declaration, religion, affiliation to other groups, and recruitment and call to jihad. These findings indicate that while ISIS and Boko Haram are similar in many ways they also tend to be different in a number of others in terms of their ideologies, objectives and approaches. These findings are expected to lead to a better understanding of these two militant organisations and may also aid in devising better ways to counter them.


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