Boko Haram pledges allegiance to Daesh

Nigerian army soldiers patrol along a road in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, on March 5, 2015. (AFP)

Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Daesh group in an audio message published online on Saturday, after three bombs wreaked havoc in northeast Nigeria, killing 58 and wounding scores.

"We announce our allegiance to the C Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim Al Husseini al Qurashi," Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said, referring to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

The eight-minute speech, in which Shekau was not shown, was published on a Twitter account used by Boko Haram and subtitled in English, French and Arabic.

Shekau has previously mentioned al-Baghdadi in video messages yet stopped short of pledging formal allegiance.

But there have been increasing signs that the Nigerian militants, whose six-year insurgency has claimed more than 13,000 lives and left 1.5 million people homeless, has been seeking a closer tie-up.

Not only did Shekau announce last year that the captured town of Gwoza in Borno state was part of a caliphate but in recent weeks Boko Haram videos have increasingly resembled Daesh group propaganda.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, who has persistently blamed the violence on outside forces, last month claimed the country had intelligence on Boko Haram links to Daesh.

Maiduguri hit

With Boko Haram squeezed out of captured territory, security analysts have predicted a rise in bomb attacks in towns and cities, including to disrupt elections in three weeks' time.

On Saturday, a woman with explosives strapped to her body blew herself up at about 11:20 am (1020 GMT) at Baga fish market in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.

About an hour later another blast rocked the popular Monday Market, causing chaos as locals voiced anger at security forces who struggled to control the scene.

Just after 1:00 pm a third blast hit a used car lot which is attached to the busy Borno Express bus terminal.

There were indications that the second and third blasts were also carried out by suicide bombers but details were not immediately clear.

Borno's police commissioner Clement Adoda gave a toll of 58 dead "for the three locations" in Maiduguri and 139 wounded.

"Normalcy has been restored," he added, declining to give further details.

Danlami Ajaokuta, a vigilante leader whose fighters have been working with the military across the northeast, said the fear of further attacks had prompted the closure of all businesses in Maiduguri.

Borno state's Justice Commissioner Kaka Shehu blamed Boko Haram and described it as a response to the defeats suffered by the insurgents in recent weeks.

"The terrorists are angry with the way they were sacked from towns and villages and are now venting their anger," he said.

Nigeria postponed its elections initially scheduled for February to March 28 after security chiefs said they needed more time to weaken Boko Haram.

While reported victories in the remote northeast may enable polling in areas previously controlled by the insurgents, rising unrest in Maiduguri is likely to raise fears as election day approaches.

Shekau has vowed to disrupt the vote and widespread attacks, especially near polling stations, could prove disastrous.

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