WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday formally designated the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. The new label is aimed at facilitating the international investigation and prosecution of those believed “responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years, including targeted killings of civilians,” according to a State Department release.
Boko Haram is believed to have links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Washington also listed Ansaru, a Boko Haram offshoot, as a foreign terrorist organization. That organization is blamed for the kidnapping and execution earlier this year of seven multinational construction workers. The groups are additionally believed to have been behind the 2011 suicide bombing of a United Nations facility in Abuja, which left 21 dead and dozens more injured.
U.S. military officials have voiced concern on occasion that regional extremist groups such as Boko Haram might acquire chemical weapons that may be less than fully secured in North Africa or elsewhere.
“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,” Lisa Monico, President Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, said in a written statement.
“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,” she said. “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.”