US to designate Boko Haram as terror group

The State Department is set to designate Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram as a terrorist entity following growing pressure from Congress, a key lawmaker told The Hill.

The Foreign Terrorist Organization designation comes as a House panel has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on the group's “continuing threat” to the oil-rich African country and the broader region. The State Department last year designated three members of the group as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” for their role in attacks on Christian churches and other targets.

“Tomorrow's the hearing, and I think they're going to do it,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs panel on Africa. “So I'm glad.”

Smith has long called on the State Department to issue the designation, which would freeze the group's assets in the U.S. and bar Americans from supporting it. He visited Nigeria a couple of months ago and urged political leaders there to make the case for having the group designated a terror group.

“I've been pushing, pushing,” Smith said. “I met with members of the parliament – including their speaker – and explained why an FTO designation is so important to go after funding of an organization. I mean, where do you think they get their money? AK-47s galore – where is it coming from? We can almost be sure they're being aided and abetted by someone. Maybe it's al Qaeda; we don't know whom.”

Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), senior members House Committee on Homeland Security, have also led the charge.

“A conservative estimate of Boko Haram’s size would be a couple hundred, making three members symbolic, but not sufficient,” they said last year in response to the initial State Department designation.

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