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US mulls Nigeria's Boko Haram for terror watch list

The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has killed more than 1,000 in a three-year insurgency, and may have ties with Al Qaeda. Will putting the group on a terror watch list help?

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / May 18, 2012

The US government is considering putting the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram on its terrorist watch list. The measure, pushed by the US Justice Department, would give US law enforcement agencies the power to prevent known members of Boko Haram to travel, and for any American company to conduct business or money transactions with the militant group.

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The proposal to list Boko Haram as a terrorist group comes at a time of growing pressure from the US Congress to act now against the Islamist group. US Rep. Patrick Meehan, has introduced an amendment to a defense bill that would force the Obama administration to act against Boko Haram, or to explain to Congress why it hasn’t done so.

Speaking with Reuters news agency, Representative Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said: "Boko Haram claimed credit for the suicide bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, killing 23 people and injuring more than 80 others.

"That meets my definition of a terrorist group, but if the administration has a reason why they don't want to designate them, I would like to hear it."

Officially named People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad, Boko Haram has been fighting a three-year long insurgency to replace the current secular constitution of Nigeria with Islamic sharia law. Arguing against Western influences – the nickname “Boko Haram” means “Western education is a sin” – Boko Haram has attacked Christian churches, state universities, state police installations, poker halls, and even international aid organizations such as the UN headquarters in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja, killing more than 1,000 people, with 308 people killed in 2011 alone.

Few would argue that Boko Haram fits the definition of a terrorist group. Boko Haram has recently shifted its fighting techniques from Al-Capone-style shoot-outs to more sophisticated suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. It is this new technology, more than actual paper trails, that leads some security experts to believe that Boko Haram has made links to Al Qaeda through other affiliates such as the Algerian based Al Qaeda in the Islamic lands of the Maghreb and the Somalia-based Al Shabab.

To help the Nigerian military counter insurgent groups like Boko Haram, the US Army’s Africa Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, has offered logistics and counterinsurgency training from US special operations force trainers, much as AFRICOM has done in the past for other West African states such as Mali.


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