By Emeka Mamah & Luka Binniyat, with agency report

 


LAGOS — The United States, yesterday, named three alleged leaders of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram as “foreign terrorists”, the first time it has blacklisted members of the Islamist group which claimed responsibility for many bomb attacks in the northern part of the country.

This is just as the alleged mastermind of the bomb attack on the United Nations building in Abuja which claimed 25 lives, Habib Bama, has been arrested after a gun duel with security personnel.The State Department identified the three Boko Haram leaders who have been branded terrorists as Abubakar Shekau, who it called the “most visible” leader of the group; Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi, who it said were tied both to Boko Haram and to al Qaeda’s north African wing.

Five of seven suspected terrorists arrested by JTF in connection with Last Sunday's attack on Eyn Church in Biu, paraded in Maiduguri, Borno on Thursday (21/6/12). NAN Photo

“Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in northern Nigeria, its primary area of operation. In the last 18 months, Boko Haram or associated militants have killed more than 1,000 people,” the State Department said in an announcement, noting that “these designations demonstrate the United States’ resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks,”

The action by the State and Treasury departments, first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, follows growing pressure on the Obama Administration to take stronger action against Boko Haram, which has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year.

U.S. officials say the decision to list individual Boko Haram members, rather than apply the more sweeping “Foreign Terrorist Organization” label to the group as a whole as some U.S. lawmakers have demanded, reflected a desire not to elevate the group’s profile.

The action freezes any assets the three men have in the United States, and bar U.S. persons from any transactions with them.

This is the first such action the U.S. government has taken against Boko Haram, but falls short of demands from some U.S. lawmakers and the Justice Department to designate the entire group as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

The State Department has been under pressure to act against Boko Haram for months. In January, Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department’s top national security official, sent a letter to the State Department arguing that the Nigerian group met the criteria for a “foreign terrorist” listing because it either engages in terrorism that threatens the United States or has a capability or intent to do so.

More recently, a group of Republican senators led by Scott Brown of Massachusetts introduced legislation requiring the State Department to determine whether Boko Haram should be designated as a terrorist group.

Republican Representative Patrick Meehan, who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee in the House, also introduced an amendment that would force the administration to add Boko Haram to the terrorism list or explain why it was not doing so.

Boko Haram henchman Habib Bama shot, arrested

Meanwhile, Habib Bama ex-army officer allegedly responsible for bombings of UN offices in Abuja, Abacha barracks and other places has been arrested.

He was said to have been brought down in a shoot out with the JTF who shot and wounded him.

Habib was declared wanted early this year by the SSS, after the arrest and confessions of Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa

4 killed as midnight killings haunt residents

There was still palpable tension in Kaduna State, yesterday, despite claims by the government that the area was now calm as it was gathered that four people were killed at Kujama in a renewed clash between some Muslims and Christians. The Chairman of Kujama was, however, said to have explained on the Kaduna State Media Corporation, KSMC, that the fight took place in the market and not in the night.

At Mararaba Rido, Vanguard gathered that   rival groups  moved from house to house in search of who to kill or maim as well as torching such houses.

This came as some medical officers at the 44 Military Hospital said that the mortuary was full with dead bodies even as four other victims being treated in the hospital died between Wednesday night and yesterday morning.

There were no fewer than 30 people with serious injuries in the hospital, even as more patients were  brought in for admission same Wednesday night.

Reliable sources said the hoodlums took advantage of the absence of both military and police officers on the streets in the night to embark on reprisal killings.

It was said that the withdrawal of soldiers from the streets followed allegations that a  military officer killed an adherent of a religion other than his own, thus inflaming passion on the side of the religious group which lost its member to the bullets from the soldier.

A resident of Barnawa who craved anonymity said, “there is curfew but without either the military or police on the streets criminals will not be deterred from carrying out their nefarious activities. The government cannot just declare a 24-hour curfew and leave the streets empty. It must deploy security agents on the streets to monitor compliance. We expect Governor Patrick Yakowa to do more by matching actions with words,” the source said.

Calm however seemed to have been restored in Kaduna town and environs, yesterday, at the time of this report.

Meanwhile, most streets in Kaduna were deserted throughout yesterday, with schools, filling stations, shops and offices remaining shut, as government re-affirmed its determination to enforce the curfew.

Governor Yakowa had in a statement by his Media Assistant, Mr Reuben Buhari affirmed that the 24 -hour curfew was still in force and warned residents to ensure compliance.

The statement read: “The Governor of Kaduna State, Sir Patrick Yakowa, once again commiserates with all. While sharing in their grief, it is however important to inform the whole state that the 24- hour curfew earlier imposed on the state is still in force and security agencies have been asked to ensure its full compliance.

“As distasteful as the imposition of the 24- hour curfew is, the good citizens of Kaduna State should understand that the measure became necessary for the good of the state and the benefit of its citizens. People are expected to cooperate fully with security agencies saddled with the task of restoring full peace and order in our state. The Governor further calls on people to absolutely disregard all mischievous text messages and rumours being circulated on impending crisis or attacks. All these rumours are meant to further throw the state into chaos. He also calls on all the inhabitants of Kaduna State to show love to one another, regardless of religious or ethnic differences.”

However, in the suburbs, residents sat outside, while youth converted open spaces into football fields, even as the  wailing sounds of sirens from vehicles of security agents who patrolled the streets rent the air once in a while.

The ban on movements was said to be taking its toll on residents, most of whom did not store food and other basic items at home before the bombings and reprisal attacks between Sunday and yesterday.

 

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