US, Nigeria set for talks on Boko Haram
Nigeria and the United States of America (USA) are set for high-level talks in Washington next month with the issue of Boko Haram likely to top the agenda.
The US Justice Department is already pressing the State Department to designate the Islamist sect as a “foreign terrorist organisation,” according to a document obtained by Reuters.
Lisa Monaco, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, sent a letter in January to State Departmentcounter-terrorism chief Daniel Benjamin requesting that Boko Haram be put on the list.
State Department representatives are said to 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.
On Thursday, Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on Homeland Security, introduced an amendment to a defence bill that does just that, after he said State officials inexplicably cancelled a briefing on Boko Haram.
In several recent cases, including that of the underwear bomber, in which a Nigerian, Farouk Abdulmuttalab, failed to blow up an airliner headed to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the United States has been handcuffed by waiting too long to designate a group as “terrorists,” Meehan said.
“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 organisation like that, puts us at a disadvantage.”
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,” Rogers said.
A senior State Department official said the department was “very concerned about violence in Nigeria” and added that it was “looking at this very carefully.”
The official insisted the department was “not stalling or dragging our feet.” But he noted that adding a group to the sanctions list is a “rigorous process which has to stand up in a court of law.”
Also on Thursday, Rep. Charlie Dent added an amendment to a foreign affairs bill that would also require State to explain why Boko Haram had not been designated a terrorist organization. The measure passed the House Appropriations Committee Thursday.