(Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
The United States government named on Wednesday Nigerian-based extremist group Boko Haram and its splinter faction Ansaru as foreign terrorist organizations, which is welcome news for a U.S.-based Christian Nigerian organization that has been pressuring both the Obama administration and the Nigerian government for over a year to crack down on the Islamist militants.
"AT LAST, the United States government has done the right thing, and members of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN, with about 1,000 local churches in the U.S., are grateful to the LORD for answered prayers. We commend the U.S. President Barack Obama and the State Department for this forthright decision," reads a statement from CANAN that was shared with The Christian Post today, on the heels of the State Department's announcement.
The announcement from the U.S. Department of State reveals:
The Department of State has announced the designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. Boko Haram is a Nigeria-based militant group with links to (al Qaeda) in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that is responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians. Also operating in Nigeria, Ansaru is a Boko Haram splinter faction that earlier in 2013 kidnapped and executed seven international construction workers.
The State Department insists the terrorist designations are vital and a necessary step for the Nigerian government, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, to find a comprehensive solution "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 U.S. support for the Nigerian people's fight against Boko Haram and Ansaru," the statement adds.
Boko Haram, waging Jihad in Nigeria's northern state since 2009, has publicly acknowledged its desire to Islamicize the African country by systematically targeting Christians and other civilians, while also amassing casualties among the military and government forces. In a September attack, the militants appeared to randomly target residents of in the country's Borno State, killing at least 160 civilians.
In addition to kidnapping and killing several foreigners living or working in Nigeria, Ansaru has been blamed for the November 2012 deadly attack on a police station in Abuja and a January 2013 attack on state security services
A statement issued by the White House Wednesday emphasized the Obama administration's commitment to helping Nigeria bring an end to internal strife.
"As President Obama emphasized when he met with Nigerian President Jonathan in September, 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," the statement reads. "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."
Calling the White House and State Department statements "gratifying," the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) president applauded the U.S. government "for rising up eventually 'to call a spade a spade.'"
"It is also our hope that with this significant turn by the U.S. government today, a greater American involvement in the fight against these terror groups would ensue, because there is still a lot more work to be done," reads a statement attributed to CANAN President Dr. James Fadele.
CANAN representatives, comprised of clergymen and Christian professionals, have been pressing the U.S. to name Boko Haram a terrorist organization since its founding in September 2012. The Christian organization believes Boko Haram's supporters are wealthy and help in facilitating the transport of weapons to the militants. The Obama administration's FTO designation of Ansaru and Boko Haram, whose name reportedly means "Western education is sinful," allows U.S. financial and banking institutions to put a freeze on any related assets held in the country.