US adds 3 Boko Haram leaders to list of global terrorists

The US State Department has added three leaders of the al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram group in Nigeria to the list of Specially Designated Global terrorists. Today’s designations mark the first time that members of the Nigerian terror group have been officially recognized as a threat to the United States. The group itself has not been added to State’s list of terror organizations.

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, was designated a global terrorist, along with Khalid al Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kamba, both of whom “have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” according to the State Department press release. The three Boko Haram leaders pose “a significant risk of conducting acts of terrorism and threaten the security of US nationals or national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States,” according to State.

“Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for numerous

attacks in northern Nigeria, its primary area of operation,” the press release said. “In the last 18 months, Boko Haram or associated militants have killed more than 1,000 people” in attacks on churches, the military and police, government facilities, and other targets.

“Boko Haram’s victims have been overwhelmingly civilian,” State continued.

Boko Haram has conducted numerous terror attacks in Nigeria since the group began waging a low-level insurgency against the Nigerian government three years ago. Major clashes between the two broke out in northern Nigeria during the summer of 2009. Police killed hundreds of Boko Haram fighters, and Mohammad Yusuf, the leader, was captured and then executed. Shekau continued to attack the state and demand that sharia, or Islamic law, be imposed in the country.

Earlier this year, Boko Haram stated that it seeks “to eradicate Christians” from areas in Nigeria. The group has intentionally targeted Christians at churches, especially on religious holidays and on Sundays during worship services. Boko Haram has launched suicide attacks on Christian churches in northern Nigeria during the last three Sundays [see Threat Matrix report, Boko Haram suicide bombers target Nigerian churches].

The Nigerian terror group has carried out at least 12 suicide attacks this year. The targets have included churches, newspapers, government officials, and security forces. The terror group also conducted several other suicide attacks in previous years; the most high-profile suicide attack targeted the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja in August 2011.

Boko Haram has also expanded its propaganda efforts to show solidarity with al Qaeda and its affiliates. In July 2010, Imam Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, issued an online statement praising al Qaeda and offered condolences to al Qaeda of Iraq for its loss of Abu Ayyub al Masri and Abu Omar al Baghdadi. He also threatened the United States.

“Do not think jihad is over,” Shekau said. “Rather jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury.”

Documents seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan showed that top level Boko Haram leaders have been in touch with al Qaeda, according to The Guardian. Boko Haram is known to receive support from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate in East Africa.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • AWF206 says:

    This is pathetic. Who are these clowns? Why not just designate the group?

  • advanced says:

    This article, which summerizes some history of the political mess that is Nigeria and BH’s role therewithin, came out very soon after I alluded to the very real possibility of this happening. It is certainly worth a read:

    “Despite the increasing militancy of the sect in Borno and Yobe States from its establishment in 2002, most Nigerians had never heard of Boko Haram until the events of July 2009 when the Nigerian Security Agencies engaged Boko Haram in a full blown assault in Maiduguri. In that tragic incident the Nigerian State facilitated the extra Judicial killing of hundreds of Boko Haram members. The dead included Muhammad Yusuf, the sect’s leader. The events of July 2009, led to the nationalization of the Boko Haram conflict.

    Much like Egbesu and MEND before it, Boko Haram has evolved to become a major geopolitical tool. The Northern political elite have come to see the value of Boko Haram for driving forward their geopolitical strategies for political relevance. In the same way that the OPC and MEND paved the way for Obasanjo and Jonathan to win the Presidency, those who seek to make geopolitical hay out of the Boko Haram crisis except that it will lead to significant political benefits for the North. The not too subtle message is that Nigeria will be made ungovernable if power and privilege does not devolve back to the North.

    The silence of Northern political leaders in condemning the actions of Boko Haram is a clear signal of their tacit endorsement of the sect and its destabilizing actions. Again, this is not surprising. For geopolitical reasons, mainstream Yoruba and Ijaw political leaders did not openly condemn the OPC or MEND either. There are however some significant issues with the use of Boko Haram as a geopolitical tool. Unlike MEND and OPC, Boko Haram’s message is not purely geopolitical. The sect is first and foremost a religious fundamentalist organization and that fact makes it ineffective as an effective geopolitical tool.”

    I think this US would be wise to stay very far away until things sort themselves out. The pertinent actors within the Nigerian state need to get their house in order before it falls apart quite literally.

  • Vyom says:

    How are these dirt bags different from AQ, Taliban, LeT or any nut cracks who roll through this cheap and pathetic ideology. Hell lack of ideology.

  • Fab Luka says:

    @ AWF, “These Clowns” as you stated are responsible for about 250 deaths so far this year. It’s about time we start systematically removing them like you would any termite or roach.

  • The Watcher says:

    The Boko Haram is much like an al-Qa’ida wing in Western Africa and Central Africa, with its rather sophisticated hierarchy, suicide bombings, assassinations, intelligence gathering and evasiveness. They also have the same patterns of drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and people smuggling just like the Nigerian fraud gangs, which they are linked to and have the same corruption and criminality that other branches of al-Qa’ida cannot be ignored. These leaders, especially Shekau, is a former fraudster and gangster. Remember that al-Qa’ida is big into diamond trafficking and heroin smuggling.

  • KingJaja says:

    As a Nigerian, let me state that the classification or non-classification of Boko Haram as an FTO isn’t really that important.
    What is really important is to understand how Boko Haram fits into Nigeria’s long history of violence, inter-ethnic competition, mutual suspicion etc.
    While a debate about Boko Haram using the categories made popular in the wake of 9/11 is in order, the debate within Nigeria has very little bearing with that.
    Non-Muslim Nigerians and Southerners believe that Boko Haram is a tool in the hands of the Northern elite to bargain for power at the center – and no amount of “hard evidence” is going to change that view.
    Another view gaining traction in Nigeria’s large Christian community is that Boko Haram is the culmination of a “fifty year Jihad that commenced with Nigeria’s independence”.
    On the other hand, many Muslims believe that “the administration at Abuja is using Boko Haram to destabilise the North and wreck its economy”.
    Please understand that Boko Haram isn’t understood here primarily as an Islamic problem or an Al Qaeda problem, but as a “Hausa/Fulani” problem – that is where the feeder stock for BH comes from and BH mainly communicates in Hausa.
    So it is seen as a tribal thing. There are millions of non-Hausa Muslims – so the usual description of “Nigeria being evenly divided – Muslim/Christian” does not do justice to the complexities on ground.
    The real damage is the potential disintegration of the Nigerian state. Nigeria is a few Church bombings away from an all-out sectarian crisis and probably, Civil War. That is the “koko”.
    Already, there are calls for a “Sovereign National Conference”, there are accusations and counter-accusations being thrown about. There is an internal refugee crisis, food prices in the Northern Nigeria are skyrocketing and Southern Nigerians are extremely weary of co-existing with Muslim Northerners.

  • Bimpa toto says:

    Boko should be dealt with with drone attack

  • Bimpa toto says:

    The immam is part of boko haram

  • chukwu says:

    Shekau was not a former fraudster or gangster, rather he was a mad muslim fanatic who constantly preached hateful messages against the west and the Nigerian government alongside the founder of the group, Mohammed Yusuf.

  • alexanda asha dgr8 says:

    dis is absolutely crazy,4 a sect or brotherhood 2 distabilise The whole nation in a matter of 3yrs nd innocent souls of civilians were lost.I think dis absolutely d right tyme 4 we christians 2 take drastic actions…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram