The government of the United Kingdom has planned to enact a law prohibiting association with two extremist groups, Boko Haram and UK based Minbar Ansar Deen.
The British Home Secretary, Theresa May has asked for the two radical Islamist organisations to be banned under terrorism laws.
According to the BBC, “if the two groups are banned, it will be illegal to support or become a member of either group, to arrange meetings or wear clothing in support of them.”
Offenders could face fines of up to £5,000 (N1,250,000) or up to 10 years in prison.
This is coming after the US government placed a bounty of $7million on Boko Haram’s leader and the Nigerian Federal Government approved proscription of the sect and declared the group’s activities illegal and acts of terrorism.
Boko Haram is led by Abubakar Shekau, who has been declared wanted.
Minbar Ansar Deen – also known as Ansar al-Sharia UK – promotes terrorism by distributing content through a forum on its website, which encourages individuals to travel overseas to engage in extremist activity, specifically fighting, according to the Home Office.
If the two groups are banned, it will be illegal to support or become a member of either group, to arrange meetings or wear clothing in support of them.
The Home Office has not yet offered further information on why it is pursuing the ban of both groups.
Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the RUSI think tank, said the move indicated that the government sees them as a “potential threat.”
Banning the groups would give the police powers to tackle their support networks.
The UK-based Minbar Ansar Deen’s website has links to Abu Nusaybah, who was arrested after appearing on the BBC’s Newsnight programme talking about Michael Adebolajo, one of the suspects in the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
Mr Pantucci said: “Does that constitute a ‘link’, we don’t know. But looking at their website, they seem to come from the same constellation.”
The activities of the Nigerian-based Boko Haram are usually confined to poor, Muslim parts of northern and central Nigeria.
Historically there is little evidence of Boko Haram targeting the UK, Mr Pantucci said.
“Britain’s Nigerian community is 90% Christian,” said Mr Pantucci, adding that Nigerian terror suspects in the UK were “usually Muslim converts”.
However, earlier this year Boko Haram kidnapped a French family in Cameroon. A Nigerian government report revealed the group was paid more than £2m before releasing its hostages.
The Home Office’s move to ban the group could indicate that it is becoming more international, “or leaning in that direction”, Mr Pantucci said.
There are 49 international terror organisations proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, including al-Qaeda, al-Shabab and Islam4UK.
The latter, previously led by the radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary, was banned in 2010.
In Northern Ireland, 14 organisations were proscribed under previous legislation.