By Tokunbo Adedoja and Michael Olugbode
United States government has said no decision had been taken on designating Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO), but added that deliberations were “ongoing and internal.”
Also, the clash between the Joint Task Force (JTF) and members of the Boko Haram in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, which reportedly led to the death of about 16 persons has created great humanitarian crisis in the town as many residents have fled the troubled area.
But US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr. Johnnie Carson, while responding to a question asked by THISDAY on whether an FTO designation was considered as an option during the two-day high-level meeting with Nigerian officials, said the issue came up during the internal deliberations within US government.
He specifically disclosed that the issue was being discussed by officials at the Department of State, National Security Council, legal and law enforcement agencies, including the Justice Department and FBI. He however added that, “At this time, there has been no final decision made on designating Boko Haram sect as a foreign terrorist organisation.”
He said notwithstanding this, US would continue to work very closely with Nigerian authorities at all levels – police, military, intelligence and foreign ministry – in trying to help country tackle “the very serious threat that Boko Haram sect is.”
Also, Deputy Secretary of State, William Burns, in his closing remarks, said the Regional Security Working Group of the BNC discussed strategies to help educate the Nigerian public about the government’s efforts to secure its citizens and prevent the spread of violent extremism.
“We will continue to work with our Nigerian partners to improve the capacity of its military and police units as part of the government’s overall effort to respond to the needs of communities vulnerable to violent extremism,” he said.
Meanwhile, military sources said the confrontation with
the sect which was majorly on Lawan Bukar street, Abbaganaram, Budum and Shehuri wards of the town left several others sustaining varying degrees of injuries.
Although, it could not be ascertained whether any member of the JTF was killed during the gun duel, the Field Operations Commander of the JTF, Col. Victor Ebhaleme, told journalists, that those killed were all members of the terrorists, and none of his men was killed.
Burns, who is the highest ranked foreign service officer in US, added: “Nigeria’s future, full of promise and risk, has no shortage of unknowns. But let me close with one certainty; that future will be brighter if we approach it together.”
Nigerian Ambassador to US, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, however, told journalists why the Federal Government was opposed to the calls on the US to designate Boko Haram as an FTO.
Adefuye said: “An FTO in any country is subject to America’s search and destroy operation which includes the sending of drones and other unmanned weapon as it currently happens in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.”
While noting that such could also have impact on other citizens, Adefuye said: “We do not want that in Nigeria.”
Adefuye also said if Boko Haram was designated as an FTO, “Nigerian citizens arriving at American ports will be treated as inhabitants of an FTO based country and each traveller will have to prove that he does not belong to Boko Haram.”
According to him, “this will involve intensive search and interrogation of Nigerians as it happened in the aftermath of Mutallab’s episode.”
The envoy, who noted that designating Boko Haram would enhance its image and prestige among other terrorist organisations which might be encouraged to strengthen it for more impact, also said that would give the impression that Nigeria was unable to contain the violent sect when it had successfully contained Niger-Delta militants who were more focused, better organised and deadlier.
Another reason he gave was that an FTO designation would militate against Nigeria’s drive for American foreign investment.
He however expressed happiness that President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigerian embassy in Washington enjoy tremendous cooperation and confidence of the American government, adding, “the views expressed above are strongly supported.”
Kano State Governor, Ibrahim Kwakwanso, and his Borno State counterpart, Kashim Shettima, were also at the high-level meeting to shed light on the security challenges in their respective states.
In one of the sessions, Borno State governor delivered a presentation on “Northern views on violent extremism and government’s role”, which was concluded with a discussion on, “Serving community needs during military and police operations; addressing challenges of IEDs, ordnance disposal, and post-blast investigations.”
The Coordinator, Counter-Terrorism, Major-General Sarkin Y. Bello, Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, James Miller, AFRICOM Deputy Commander, Vice Admiral Charles Leidig, and US Counterterrorism Deputy, Robert Godec, were among defence and intelligence chiefs at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Military sources said the confrontation with the sect which was majorly on Lawan Bukar street, Abbaganaram, Budum and Shehuri wards of the town which left several others sustaining varying degrees of injuries.
The gun duel and multiple explosions which rocked the city on Tuesday evening up to Wednesday morning was said to have left residents in the affected areas to remain indoors in the last 24 hours. It was gathered that the JTF who had cordoned off the area had warned residents to stay in their houses throughout as they engaged the terrorists who had on Tuesday decided to come out to engage them in open confrontation.
Although, it could not be ascertained whether any member of the JTF was also lost in the confrontation, but the Field Operations Commander of the JTF, Col. Victor Ebhaleme, told journalists, that those killed were all members of the terrorists, and none of his men was killed.
Abbaganaram, Budum and Lawan Bukar streets are where the family house of the serving governor Kashim Shettima is located, but they had been forced to flee from the troubled area a day before the latest confrontation.
It was gathered that the latest confrontation started at about 4pm on Tuesday when some suspected sect members attacked one of the JTF local base in Budum which made the JTF to re-strategise and repelled them off in a gun battle and multiple explosions on Tuesday night.
It was gathered that the JTF had cordoned off the notorious Lawan Bukar area known for many attacks by the sect including the assassination of late All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) gubernatorial candidate in the state, Fannami Modu Gubio.
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