After years of trying to limit international attention to the extremist group Boko Haram, Nigeria has switched course and has now secured global recognition of the Islamist militants as a terrorist organization.
The United Nations Security Council, acting on a Nigerian request, on Thursday placed Boko Haram on the UN’s list of terrorist organizations associated with Al Qaeda.
Nigeria, currently serving on the 15-member council as one of 10 rotating members, made the request Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, President Obama announced that 80 US military personnel have been sent to Chad on Nigeria’s northeastern border. The troops are assigned to helping in what has become an international search for more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April and still being held by the radical group.
Nigeria’s acceptance and indeed solicitation of international assistance in dealing with Boko Haram marks a shift from past efforts to downplay the seriousness of the violent group’s threat to the country’s security and stability. Just two years ago, the government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pressed the State Department not to place Boko Haram on the US list of terrorist organizations.
The US did ultimately place the group on its list of terrorist organizations last fall after determining in particular that Boko Haram had growing ties to Al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Africa’s Sahel and Maghreb regions.
Placing Boko Haram on the UN’s list of Al Qaeda-affiliated entities elevates targeting the group to the global level. The UN list makes it mandatory for the world body’s 195 member states to take specific actions, including freezing any of the group’s assets on its territory. The listing bans arms sales or transfers to the group and prohibits member states from allowing the group’s members to enter or transfer through their territory.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power applauded the listing of Boko Haram by the Security Council, calling it "an important step in support of the government of Nigeria's efforts to defeat Boko Haram and hold its murderous leadership accountable for atrocities."
Mr. Obama’s decision to send troops to Chad to assist in the effort to rescue the abducted schoolgirls was welcomed by congressional leaders, although some Republican critics of the administration’s initial steps in the abduction crisis said the US is still not doing enough.
Saying “We can do more,” Rep. Ed Royce (R) of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised the White House action as “a step in the right direction” but said additional US security personnel should be directly involved in assisting and advising rescue efforts.
“Anything less,” Mr. Royce said, “would be insufficient in responding to the pressing threat that Boko Haram poses to the region and US interests.”