Boko Haram has been named a terror organization by the United States State Department, a move that will have legal and financial repercussions for its members abroad as well as its affiliates in the United States. A splinter group of Boko Haram named Ansaru was also deemed a “foreign terrorist organization.”
According to the United States, Nigeria-based Boko Haram has committed thousands of murders in Nigeria during the last several years. The US charges that the group has also been known for “targeted killings of civilians.” In 2013, its offshoot, Ansaru, notably abducted and killed seven foreign construction workers.
Founded in 2002 by imam Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram was initially intended to be a group that sympathized with the Taliban and al-Qaida. After the murder of Yusuf in 2009, current leader Abubakar Shekau re-formed the group, transforming it from a peaceful organization that preached and prepared for jihad to a sect that trains alongside al Qaida and its African offshoots to act as jihadists.
Boko Haram translates as “Western education is sinful.” Their objective is to create an Islamic state in the northern part of Nigeria, which is mainly Muslim. Over the past year they have increased attacks against citizens and government targets. In May, the Nigerian government declared states of emergency in three states due to the activity of the terrorist group.
Shrouded in secrecy, Boko Haram’s only public offerings have been propaganda videos in which sect leader Shekau brags about military successes and delivers threats against anyone considered an enemy. A recent video depicts a large stockpile of weapons that Boko Haram claims to have taken from Nigerian soldiers and then warns of a “big war” coming.
Within the statement issued by the US which named Boko Haram a terror organization, the US also urged Nigeria to maintain respect for human rights and to protect its citizens. Recently, human rights groups have accused Nigeria of violating its citizens’ human rights as it tries to combat Boko Haram.
Reaction to the news in Nigeria was mixed. While some believe that the declaration will prompt heightened security and military support from the United States, others fear that US efforts to thwart Boko Haram’s agenda will impact their daily lives in a negative way. Many Nigerians expressed concern that business matters and financial transactions will be affected. It appears as though in an effort to stop the terrorist activities of a relatively small number of Nigerians, a larger number of citizens may have to make sacrifices, which will affect international business and the practice of foreign nationals sending money to their families back home.
In the United States, the White House has issued the directive that all agencies are to prevent any financial dealings with the groups. Now that it has been named a terror organization, it is considered a crime to aid Boko Haram or its offshoots in any way.
By Jennifer Pfalz