Radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, alleged to be responsible for the deaths of over 1,500 in northern Nigeria since the start of its insurgency in 2009, could be added to the United States’ list of “foreign terrorist organisation”.
Lisa Monaco, head of the Justice Department’s national security division in the US has sent a letter urging the State Department’s counter-terrorism chief Daniel Benjamin to put the sect, known as the “Nigerian Taliban”, on that list.
According to Reuters sources, “State Department representatives have lobbied Congress to try to stop legislation which would force the administration to act against the group or explain why they had not done so”.
Representative Patrick Meehan, a Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on Homeland Security, said failing to act or take a stance against Boko Haram could have an averse effect on the nation’s security.
Meehan pointed to the Nigerian underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 25-year-old who attempted to blow up a Detroit airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
“Only later, after they’ve committed terrible acts have we put them on the list of foreign terrorists,” Meehan told Reuters. “To not have the capacity that it gives law enforcement to both monitor and to hold people who give material support to an organization like that, puts us at a disadvantage.”
The Boko Haram sect has claimed responsibility for several attacks since 2009, including one attack on an international institution.
Rep. Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the Boko Haram bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Abuja which left 23 dead and at least 80 injured meets the 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,” Rogers said.
Boko Haram’s increasingly violent insurgency has grown in frequency and sophistication and now the sect has been linked to other terrorist groups, especially the north African al Qaeda in Maghreb, AQIM and the Somali al Shabab.
Monaco said though the sect has only operated within Nigeria, the United States should not underestimate the threat the group poses to U.S. interests.