WASHINGTON (June 21, 2012): The US government is expected to formally apply a “foreign terrorist” label onto three alleged leading figures of the violent Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, officials said.
The action by the State and Treasury departments follows growing pressure on the Obama Administration to take stronger action against Boko Haram.
The group, which says it wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year.
The anticipated action, officials said, involves applying the “terrorist” designation to three men presumed to be central figures in the group.
The three individuals, an official said, are Abubakar Shekau, aged around 43, described as a Boko Haram leader who allegedly aligned himself with al Qaeda in a video message; Abubakar Adam Kambar, aged roughly 35; and Khalid al Barnawi, 36.
The expected action will freeze any assets they have in the United States, and bar US persons from any transactions with them.
It is among the first such action the US government has taken against Boko Haram, but falls short of demands from some US lawmakers and the Justice Department to designate the entire group as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
The State Department has been under pressure to act against Boko Haram for months. In January, Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department’s top national security official, sent a letter to the State Department arguing that the Nigerian group met the criteria for a “foreign terrorist” listing because it either engages in terrorism that threatens the United States or has a capability or intent to do so.
Boko Haram increasingly is seen as a potent threat to Nigeria, the continent’s most populous state and a major oil producer, and as part of growing arc of Islamist extremist groups stretching across northern Africa. – Reuters