The United States, yesterday, formally declared war on Boko Haram, classifying the terror group believed to have ties with al-Qaeda, a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
A statement issued by the US State Department, yesterday, in Washington, said the US government was invoking Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224 to designate Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
The Federal Government which had hitherto mounted pressure on the US against taking such action, also issued a statement through Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US to explain why it accepted the US classification of Boko Haram and Ansaru as terrorist groups.
According to Ambassador Ade Adefuye, the decision to declare Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, was taken at a meeting at the State Department on Friday, November 8, 2013, and they took immediate steps to inform the authorities in Abuja.
“For the past couple of months, this embassy successfully countered pressures from religious organizations and politicians both in Nigeria and the US on the American government to make this declaration. Our belief then was that the twin-track approach of enforcement and dialogue adopted by the Nigerian Government would make Boko Haram see reason. Regrettably, the continued intransigence of the sect compelled our government to proscribe the organization on June 4, 2013,” Adefuye said.
The Federal government said its earlier opposition of the designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as FTOs by the US was “because of the wider implication and exposure to stringent measures that such actions will impose on ordinary Nigerians”. But the State Department said its assistance to Nigeria stresses the importance of protecting civilians and ensuring that human rights are respected. It said designation of these groups as FTOs demonstrates U.S. support for the Nigerian people’s fight against Boko Haram and Ansaru.
Ambassador Adefuye said: “We have taken note of the statement by host authorities that the latest action is meant to enhance further co-operation between Nigeria and the US in tackling this issue. The Government of Nigeria remains committed to bringing to an end the atrocities of Boko Haram in collaboration with our foreign partners.”
Activities of the radical Islamic sects have become worrisome to the United States and other countries that are uncomfortable with Boko Haram, which has been responsible for the death of thousands of civilians and security personnel across religious divides in North-East and central Nigeria since it commenced its campaign in 2002. Also operating in Nigeria, Ansaru is a Boko Haram splinter faction that earlier in 2013 kidnapped and executed seven international construction workers.
Diplomatic sources said the designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as FTOs is “an important and appropriate step, but just a step in 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.”