NAIROBI, Kenya — Washington showed an unusual degree of local understanding when it stopped short of naming Nigeria's extreme Islamic group, Boko Haram, an international terrorist organization.
With its roots firmly in northern Nigeria's combustible mix of religious tension, economic marginalization, widespread poverty and growing population, Boko Haram is, to be sure, a threat to Nigerian security and Nigerian people, but not, so far, to the US.
Instead the State Department announced the designation of three top Boko Haram leaders as global terrorists
in a move seemingly designed to put pressure on the group and encourage divisions.
Among the three named is Abubakar Shekau, the group's current leader. The two others are described as link men between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) which has recently taken control of parts of northern Mali and is already a US- designated terrorist group.
According to the US statement, Boko Haram has been responsible for over 1,000 deaths in the last 18 months during a campaign of bombing attacks often targetting churches in northern Nigeria as well as government offices, security forces, the UN and media houses.
The designation is largely symbolic as it blocks US citizens from doing business with the men and permits the seizing of their US assets, neither of which is likely to apply in this case.
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