An affiliate of the Islamic State says it executed 11 Christians in Nigeria in retaliation for the killings of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his spokesman earlier this year, according to Agence France-Presse.
The terrorist group released a video on Thursday through its online news agency, Telegram, that reportedly shows masked militants from the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) shooting and stabbing 11 blindfolded men, the AFP and Reuters report.
ISWAP is an offshoot of terror group Boko Haram and declared its loyalty to ISIS in 2016. The group is now the most prominent Islamist terrorist group in the region, with more than three times as many fighters as the next-largest Islamic State faction in Egypt, according to research by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
Reuters reports that the group also claimed responsibility for an attack on a military outpost in Burkina Faso earlier this week.
On Tuesday, the United Nations released a statement condemning the group for increasingly targeting civilians, including Christians, aid workers and security officials, in northeastern Nigeria.
ISWAP is known for abducting aid workers in the region, the BBC reported. Two midwives working for the International Committee for the Red Cross were taken hostage and later killed by the group in October.
ISWAP's attack on Christians this week is suspected to have been planned to coincide with Christmas. "This is a message to Christians all over the world," said a masked man in the video, according to the AFP. The man went on to say that the killings were carried out in order to exact revenge for the deaths of Baghdadi and ISIS spokesman Abul-Hasan al-Muhajir.
In October, U.S. special forces conducted a raid on Baghdadi's compound in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib that resulted in the ISIS leader's death. Muhajir was killed later the same day in a U.S. airstrike near the Syria-Turkey border.