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FG does not back U.S push to list Boko Haram among foreign terrorist organisation

Channels Television  
Updated May 23, 2012

The Minister of Defence, Bello Mohammed on Wednesday said that the Federal government does not support the move by a U.S congress to designate extremist group, Boko Haram a “foreign terrorist organisation” because this could hamper dialogue with the sect.

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Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria means “Western education is sinful,” is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

The Minister said this while responding to questions from a Reuters correspondent on the sideline of a meeting between South Africa and Nigeria in Cape Town.

“We are looking at a dialogue to establish the grievances of the Boko Haram. I think the attempt to declare them an international terrorist organization will not be helpful,” he said.

The Federal Government held indirect talks with Boko Haram in March, but discussions broke down quickly and the militant group said it could not trust the government. It is unclear whether government efforts to resume links have borne fruit since.

Pressure has been growing on the Obama administration to formally designate Boko Haram a “foreign terrorist organisation.”

Scott Brown, a Republican senator from Massachusetts, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late last week, urging her to designate the group as a terrorist organization.

U.S. Representatives Peter King and Patrick Meehan, chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its counterterrorism subcommittee, released a letter they sent to Clinton suggesting the administration was moving too slowly.

Boko Haram, which means “western education is sinful”, has claimed responsibility for months of attacks in northern Nigeria. Its attacks have mainly targeted the police, churches and outdoor drinking areas.

“Boko Haram is not operating in America and America is not operating in Nigeria,” said Mohammed. “They are not involved in our internal security operations, so I don’t think it would be of much significance really in that respect. But we don’t support it.”