US officially classifies Boko Haram a terrorist organisation
The US State Department announced yesterday that it has officially recognised the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram as a "foreign terrorist organisation", signalling a significant change in position.
The announcement from Washington makes it a crime under US law to provide "material support" to Boko Haram, and law enforcement agencies will block business and financial transactions with the group.
The organisation,which has ties to Al-Qaeda and whose name translates as "Western education is sacrilege", has been responsible for over two thousand deaths in Nigeria.
Its leadership has declared intent to cleanse the country of Christians, eradicate Nigerian democracy, and replace it with an Islamic state guided by Sharia law.
In September of this year, over 100 people were killed at the hands of the organisation in just five days in several attacks across the country.
Frans Veerman, Director of the World Watch List, Open Doors International's annual monitor of the 50 most dangerous countries in which to be a Christian, estimated that of the at least 1,200 Christians martyred across the world last year because of their faith, 791 were Christians in Nigeria who had mostly been slain at the hands of Boko Haram.
Faith McDonnell, of the US-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, praised this change in policy from the US government, saying: "The intentions of Boko Haram to forcibly islamise Nigeria through horrific violence are a very serious threat both to US security and to the citizens of Nigeria.
"This terrorist designation is a welcome change from the State Department.
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"Boko Haram has been relentless in its attacks against Christians and their places of worship. One Anglican diocese in northern Nigeria has lost almost 100 per cent of its members to the killings and migration of survivors to the south," she said.
Other organisations welcoming this announcement from Washington include the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), who have been actively campaigning for a change in policy for over a year.
Dr James Fadele, President of CANAN, commended the US government for the official recognition of Boko Haram's terrorist activities and for "call[ing] a spade a spade".
"We are delighted," he said.
"It is also our hope that with this significant turn by the US government today, a greater American involvement in the fight against these terror groups would ensue, because there is still a lot more work to be done," he continued.
His words echo those of McDonnell, who has stressed that the US must now focus on supporting the victims of Boko Haram who have been displaced from their homes and communities as a result of the atrocities.