Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2013 / 02:04 am (CNA).- After lengthy advocacy from both human rights and Christian groups, the U.S. State Department has officially designated the Nigeria-based Islamist group Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization.
“The State Department is right to finally respond to the calls of many in the international community who see this designation as clearly needed,” Benjamin Bull, chief counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, said Nov. 14. “Terrorist groups must not be allowed to engage in genocidal terror, especially when available steps can be taken to help curtail such violence.”
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” seeks to overthrow the Nigerian government and impose Shariah law throughout the country. It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Christians and is reportedly involved with rebels and terrorist groups in the region.
Over the years, Boko Haram has been responsible for the deaths of an estimated 2,800 people according to Human Rights Watch, including more than 690 in 2012, according to the Associated Press.
Emmanuel Ogebe, a legal expert on Nigeria with the Jubilee Campaign, said that although it took “a long time” for the State Department to agree with other federal departments and Congress, “the time has come to help bring an end to this senseless violence.”
The Department of State announced Boko Haram’s new designation Nov. 13. A spokesperson said that “Boko Haram has been conducting an ongoing and brutal campaign against Nigerian military, government, and civilian targets.”
The U.S. government said the group’s “indiscriminate attacks” in Benisheikh, Nigeria in September 2013 killed more than 160 civilians, including women and children. It conducted a suicide bombing of the U.N. building in Abuja in August 2011, killing 21 people and injuring dozens more.
The Boko Haram splinter group Ansaru has raided a police station, ambushed a convoy of Nigerian peacekeepers, and conducted several kidnappings of foreigners.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s 2012 report ranked Boko Haram the second most deadly terrorist group in the world, surpassed only by the Taliban of Afghanistan.
Official designation of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist group allows the U.S. government to freeze or seize its bank accounts, to deport its members and associates, and to sanction the group’s supporters.
The U.S. government’s longtime failure to designate the group as terroristic had drawn criticism.
“Thousands of lives have been lost in this largely silent slaughter in Nigeria at the blood-thirsty hands (Read More)