UN Blacklists Nigerian Militant Group Boko Haram

The UN Security Council, acting at the request of Nigeria, on Thursday imposed sanctions on Boko Haram in a bid to cut off funding and weapons to the extremist group.

Nigeria had requested the measure on Monday because of the recent surge in Boko Haram's violent activities. The council moved swiftly, formally adding the group to its sanctions list, thus freezing assets and embargoing arms.

Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, who heads the al-Qaeda sanctions committee, told reporters this is a first step toward cutting off international support to Boko Haram.

The sanctions aim to deter "the people who might be tempted to supply some kind of assistance" financially or through the sale of arms, Quinlan said, adding the council wanted "to dry up any sort of support for this group."

Boko Haram, based in northeast Nigeria, has killed thousands of people since 2010 in its bid to force the government to adopt strict Islamic law. The group has been in the international spotlight since abducting almost 300 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria in mid-April.

In recent weeks, the group has stepped up the frequency and intensity of its attacks. Nigerian officials believe the militants are responsible for twin bombings in the central city of Jos on Tuesday that killed at least 118 people.

The militants are also blamed for attacks on three Borno state villages overnight Tuesday in which 48 people were killed.

Quinlan said there was clear evidence that Boko Haram fighters have trained with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and fought alongside al-Qaeda-linked groups in Mali. He also said that they have learned how to make improvised explosive devices, a hallmark of al-Qaeda, and that the group's leader has made strong statements supporting other al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said that adding Boko Haram to the council's al-Qaeda sanctions list is an important step in supporting the Nigerian government's efforts to defeat the group and hold its leaders accountable for atrocities.

Power said the listing also will "close off important avenues of funding, travel and weapons to Boko Haram," while showing global unity against what she called the militants' "savage actions."

Earlier this week, lawmakers extended a year-old state of emergency in the northeast, where Boko Haram has been most active.

VOA News / May 23, 2014 08:09 KST