Anti-Christian Boko Haram listed as ‘terrorist’ by US

America’s State Department has officially designated Boko Haram as a ‘terrorist’ organisation.

The move has implications for how the United States and its military can now engage with the radical Islamist group in its global ‘war on terror’ and may signal an increase in the assistance offered to the Nigerian government in combating the group responsible for multiple attacks on the country’s Christian community.

Since its emergence in 2009 – though it was formed in the 1990s – Boko Haram has killed over 3,000 people in attacks across northern areas of Nigeria, aimed at driving Christians south and with the ultimate goal of sparking a religious war in which it hopes to topple the government and build up an Islamic state based on sharia law. In 2013, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan launched a major military offensive on Boko Haram strongholds in the north-east, particularly Borno and its capital Maiduguri. This appears to have had little effect on the group, which stepped up its own campaign by attacking a Christian school in September, killing 50, and then, in early November, it killed 30 people when it attacked a wedding group driving on a roadway in Borno. The savagery of that attack, in which many victims had their throats slit, led to condemnation from the United Nations and a warning that Boko Haram members might be tried for crimes against humanity.

The American designation for Boko Haram was announced on November 13, just a day before word emerged from Cameroon that a French priest, Fr Georges Vandenbeusch, who ministers near the border with Nigeria, had been kidnapped by the group, reportedly in retaliation for the priest having offered help to Christians fleeing persecution. As The Irish Catholic went to press this week, Boko Haram confirmed it had snatched Fr Vandenbeusch and stated he had been moved to Nigeria.