The United States Department of State, on Thursday, formally designated leaders of violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, as terrorists.
The Department issued a statement in New York announcing the designation of the sect leaders as global terrorists.
The Boko Haram leaders classified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1 (b) of Executive Order 133224 are Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi.
Shekau, Kambar and al-Barnawi’s names entered the infamous global terrorists list on a day that the Joint Task Force in the north claimed to have arrested one Habibu Bama, a man suspected to have masterminded the bombing of the force headquarters on June 16, 2011.
Bama had also been declared wanted in February by the State Security Service as the mastermind of the UN office bombing in Abuja and the Christmas Day attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks and many others that had cumulatively cost the nation over 2,000 lives since the sect started a bombing campaign against the government.
The US statement said that Shekau was the most visible leader of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, commonly referred to as Boko Haram.
It added that al-Barnawi and Kambar had ties with Boko Haram and also had close links with al-Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation.
The statement read in part, “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.
“Boko Haram is credited with the Aug. 26, 2011 attack on the United Nations Building, Abuja that killed at least 23 people and wounded scores more.
“Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for the Dec. 25, 2011 attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Nigeria, that killed at least 35 and wounded dozens more.
“Boko Haram’s deadliest violence occurred on Jan. 20, 2012 in Kano, Nigeria, with a series of attacks that killed more than 180 people. Boko Haram’s victims have been overwhelmingly civilian.’’
It explained that the designation would block all of Shekau’s, Kambar’s and al-Barnawi’s property interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with or for the benefit of the individuals.
The statement noted that the designations demonstrated the U.S. resolve to diminish the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks, adding that the Department of State took the actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.
The U.S. had on June 6, during the closing session of the Nigeria-U.S. Bi-National Commission meeting in Washington DC, said it had not taken a decision on whether to designate the activities of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, had then noted that deliberations on the issue were ongoing.
Agency reports on Thursday however quoted the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Martin Uhomoibhi, as saying that the activities of the Islamic sect should not be tied to Nigeria alone.
According to him, terrorist activities are a global phenomenon that requires international collaborations among nations to tackle.
Also the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., Prof. Ade Adefuye, said that Nigeria was opposed to the declaration of Boko Haram as FTO.
He said, “It will give the impression that Nigeria is not able to contain the sect when it has successfully contained Niger Delta militants who were more focused, better organised and deadlier.
“An FTO in any country is subject to America’s search and destroy operation which includes the sending of drones and other unmanned weapons of mass destruction as it currently happens in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
“Such activities bring untold suffering to citizens of such countries. We do not want that in Nigeria.’’
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Lateef Adegbite, onThursday, cautioned the US not to be hasty in its classification of Boko Haram as a terrorist group.
Adegbite told journalists in Abuja that in taking a decision on the sect, the US should hasten slowly.
He argued that since the government and stakeholders in the country were already fashioning out ways to end the insurgence, there was the need for the US to exercise caution.
He said, “How do they know who are Boko Haram and those who are not?
“The implications will be very serious; they may see someone like me with my long beard and think I am Boko Haram; so the implication will be very serious.