In a long-overdue move, the White House announced this morning that it will designate Nigeria’s Boko Haram, which has been training with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Shabaab, as a foreign terrorist organization.
Today’s designation also includes Ansaru, an offshoot of Boko Haram.
“In the last several years, Boko Haram and Ansaru have been responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria, including dozens of attacks on churches and mosques, targeted killings of civilians, and the 2011 suicide bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja that killed 21 people and injured dozens more,” Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said in a statement.
“By cutting these terrorist organizations off from U.S. financial institutions and enabling banks to freeze assets held in the United States, these designations demonstrate our strong support for Nigeria’s fight against terrorism and its efforts to address security challenges in the north,” Monaco continued. “As President Obama emphasized when he met with Nigerian President Jonathan in September, we encourage Nigeria to pursue a comprehensive counterterrorism approach that uses law enforcement tools effectively, creates economic opportunity, and ensures that human rights are protected and respected. The United States stands firmly with the people of Nigeria in their efforts to bring the terrorist violence perpetrated by these groups to an end.”
The White House announcement comes on the same day of a House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing on the continuing threat of Boko Haram. In the run-up to hearing, members were critical of the administration for a lack of FTO designation for the Nigerian terrorists.
Testifying from the administration will be Linda Thomas-Greenfield, assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department.
“Boko Haram – which translates into ‘education is prohibited’ – is another example of how the threat from al-Qaeda is spreading,” Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said last night. “For years, the ‘Nigerian Taliban’ has been working to impose its strict ways in the country’s Muslim north. Once believed to be strictly local, its fighters are increasingly linking up with other al-Qaeda linked groups in the region.”
“The United States has a security interest in seeing a stable Nigeria,” Royce added. “Designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization will allow U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies the necessary authority to freeze Boko Haram’s assets and to stop entities providing support to the organization.”