The United States on Thursday named three alleged leaders of the deadly Nigerian Islamist militant group, Boko Haram as “foreign terrorists”. The move marks the first time the United States would blacklist members of the group that has wreaked a lot of havoc in the Northern part of Nigeria.
America’s State Department identified the three as Abubakar Shekau, who it called the “most visible” leader of the group, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi, who it said were tied both to Boko Haram and to al Qaeda’s north African wing.
“Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in northern Nigeria, its primary area of operation. In the last 18 months, Boko Haram or associated militants have killed more than 1,000 people,” the State Department said in an announcement.
“These designations demonstrate the United States’ resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks,” it said.
The action by the State and Treasury departments is coming on the heels of pressure being mounted on the Obama Administration to take stronger action against Boko Haram, which has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year in its drive to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.
U.S. officials say the decision to list individual Boko Haram members, rather than apply the more sweeping “Foreign Terrorist Organization” label to the group as a whole as some U.S. lawmakers have demanded, reflected a desire not to elevate the group’s profile.
The action freezes any assets the three men have in the United States, and bar U.S. persons from any transactions with them.