|| credits: Reuters|
The United States has formally designated the fundamentalist Islamic militant groups, Boko Haram and Ansaru, as “Foreign Terrorist Organisations under Section 219 of its Immigration and Nationality Act.
It also classified them as Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224.
The White House, in a statement on Wednesday, explained that the designation constituted only a tool in a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government towards curbing the activities of the terror groups.
The statement quoted Lisa Monaco, the adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism to President Barack Obama, as saying that the latest development had demonstrated the support of the White House for the war against the groups in Nigeria.
It explained that with their designation as FTOs and SDGTs, financial institutions in the US had been empowered to freeze the assets of Boko Haram and Ansaru.
The White House, according to Reuters and Sahara Reporters, therefore encouraged the Federal Government “ to pursue a comprehensive counterterrorism approach that uses law enforcement tools effectively, creates economic opportunity, and ensures that human rights are protected and respected.”
It also stated that the designation would allow the US and its law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute terror suspects associated with Boko Haram and Ansaru.
The statement reads in part, “These designations are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups through a combination of law enforcement, political, and development efforts, as well as military engagement, to help root out violent extremism while also addressing the legitimate concerns of the people of Northern Nigeria.
“All of our assistance to Nigeria stresses the importance of protecting civilians and ensuring that human rights are respected. That assistance and these designations demonstrate the U.S. support for the Nigerian people’s fight against Boko Haram and Ansaru.
“By cutting these terrorist organisations off from U.S financial institutions and enabling banks to freeze assets held in the US, these designations demonstrate our strong support for Nigeria’s fight against terrorism.
“Boko Haram has been conducting an ongoing and brutal campaign against Nigerian military, government, and civilian targets.
“Among its most lethal attacks, Boko Haram carried out indiscriminate attacks in Benisheikh in September 2013 that killed more than 160 innocent civilians, including women and children. Boko Haram has also conducted attacks against international targets, including a suicide bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja on August 26, 2011, that killed 21 people and injured dozens more, many of them aid workers supporting development projects across Nigeria.”
The White House statement described Boko Haram as a militant group with links to al-Qae’ida in the Islamic Maghreb that is responsible for thousands of deaths in North-East and central Nigeria over the years, including targeted killings of civilians.
Ansaru is a Boko Haram splinter faction that earlier in 2013 kidnapped and executed seven international construction workers.
Ansaru’s attacks have focused on the military and Western targets. In November 2012, the group attacked a police station in Abuja, killing policemen and freeing detained terror suspects from prison.
Also in January 2013, Ansaru ambushed a convoy of peacekeepers, killing some of them. It also conducted several kidnappings of foreigners.
The US had on June 21, 2012 declared the leader of Boko Haram , Abubakar Shekau, a SDGT and placed a $7m bounty on his head.
The Federal Government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), said it welcomed the US decision.
Adoke, in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Wednesday night, said, ““The US stance is a welcome development; we salute the US Government for partnering with us to root out terrorism.
“This step will assist Nigeria to deal with these renegades. It will also help in strengthening the proscription of Boko Haram by the government.
“We urge other super powers to emulate the US government to check terrorism in any part of the world. A threat to any nation by insurgents is a threat to global peace.”
The Director of Defence Information, Brig. Gen Chris Olukolade, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the US action would enhance collaborative efforts geared towards tackling the Boko Haram insurgency.
Olukolade said, “It is most welcome and we hope it would enhance more collaboration to tackle the evil. It will enhance the required collaboration globally.
“It will enhance the support that we expect everywhere from all citizens both in Nigeria and across the world.”
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria said the development was a vindication of its earlier position on the sect.
The Public Relations Officer of CAN in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, Mr. Sunny Oibe, said, “We saw it coming. We thank God that at last, the US government has realised it.
“With this , the position of CAN has been justified that Boko Haram is a terrorist organisation because next to Al-Qaida, Boko Haram kill more human beings than every other terrorist organisation in the world.”