The United States has named Nigerian-based militant groups Boko Haram and Ansaru as foreign terrorist organizations on Wednesday.
The announcement was made in a statement read by US counterterrorism official, Lisa Monaco, who also said the two groups have been responsible for thousands of deaths in the central and north-eastern parts of Nigeria in recent years.
This move was described by the state department as “an important” step to help Nigeria “root out violent extremism”.
It means US regulatory agencies are instructed to block business and financial transactions with the groups.
“Boko Haram” – literarily translated to mean, “Western Education is forbidden” – seeks to impose Sharia law in northern Nigeria, and is believed to be responsible for thousands of deaths while Ansaru is seen as an off-shoot of Boko Haram.
In a statement made by the US state department on Wednesday’s it was said that “designations are an important and appropriate step”.
The US government also stressed that this was “only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups”.
The decision also means that it is now a crime under US law to provide material support to the two groups.
The statement reads: “These designs are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be 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 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 US had not previously designated Boko Haram a terrorist organisation until now because it was initially considered an organisation that only posed a domestic threat.
During the last three years, however, its attacks have intensified and there have also been signs of a more international agenda.