2nd April, 2012
Two Republican lawmakers on Monday urged the United States to designate Nigeria’s Boko Haram as a terrorist group, warning not to be complacent against what they called a growing threat.
The appeal comes just after a senior US diplomat recommended against a terrorist label, saying that the Islamist-oriented group was not monolithic and was primarily driven by local grievances.
Representatives Peter King and Patrick Meehan said that Boko Haram — which was blamed for coordinated attacks on January 20 that killed 185 people — was evolving in a similar way as the Pakistani Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.”We must ensure that the federal government does not become complacent and allow bureaucratic stovepipes to prevent us from addressing a critical terrorist threat,” the Republican congressmen wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a member of the rival Democratic Party.
A terrorist designation would put US government resources to work against Boko Haram, including the freezing of any assets and prosecution of its members.Nearly daily violence by Boko Haram in the north of religiously diverse Nigeria has claimed more than 1,000 lives since mid-2009.Boko Haram took responsibility for Christmas Day bomb attacks that killed nearly 50 people, mostly in churches, as well as last August’s bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja that killed 25.
“The brazenness and sophistication of these attacks are hallmarks of Al-Qaeda tradecraft,” the lawmakers wrote, voicing alarm at “Boko Haram’s rapid progression from a machete-wielding mob to a full-blown Al-Qaeda affiliate.”King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has long been outspoken about what he sees as threats from radical Islam. Meehan heads its subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, which held a hearing on Boko Haram last year.
Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for Africa, said Thursday that the State Department took Boko Haram’s potential threat to the United States “very seriously” but played down the “reports of episodic contact” with Al-Qaeda.”As Boko Haram is focused primarily on local Nigerian issues and actors, they respond principally to political and security developments within Nigeria,” Carson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.He urged the Nigerian government to address underlying grievances, including charges of human rights abuses by security forces.