UN blacklists Nigeria’s Boko Haram

Committee imposes sanctions on group that abducted 276 schoolgirls, listing it as an al-Qaeda affiliate.

The UN Security Council committee on al-Qaeda sanctions has blacklisted Nigeria’s Boko Haram, a month after the armed group kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls.

Nigeria, which until recently had been reluctant to seek international help to combat Boko Haram, requested earlier this week that the group be sanctioned. As a result, it is now subject to an international asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.

“What will the practical impact of that be? Hard to say but it’s an essential step we had to take,” said Australian UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan, the al-Qaeda sanctions committee chair, adding that the aim was to “dry up support” for the group.

“We will work to try and make sure that anybody supplying any material assistance to Boko Haram – whether funding or arms – will in fact be stopped, will be deterred by the fact they too will be eligible for listing on the sanctions list.”

RELATED: The origins of Nigeria’s Boko Haram

Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls from a secondary school in Chibok in remote northeastern Nigeria on April 14 and has threatened to sell them into slavery. Eight other girls were taken from another village earlier this month.

Boko Haram’s five-year-old insurgency is aimed at creating an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria, whose 170 million people are split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.

‘Terrorist expertise’

The UN listing entry describes Boko Haram as an affiliate of al-Qaeda and the Organisation of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Al Jazeera meets Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram attacks

“Boko Haram has maintained a relationship with the Organisation of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb for training and material support purposes,” according to the narrative summary accompanying the listing.

“For example, Boko Haram gained valuable knowledge on the construction of improvised explosive devices from AQIM. A number of Boko Haram members fought alongside al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Mali [in] 2012 and 2013 before returning to Nigeria with terrorist expertise,” Reuters quoted the document as saying.

US Ambassador Samantha Power hailed the sanctions as “an important step” to support Nigeria in defeating “Boko Haram and hold its murderous leadership accountable for atrocities.”

The group has recently escalated its campaign of attacks that have left thousands dead since 2009, and the abduction of the schoolgirls have sparked global outrage.

Twenty-nine farm workers were shot dead by suspected Boko Haram members on Thursday in a remote area in the northeast. It comes day after bombings in the city of Jos , blamed on the group, killed about 130 people.

Abuja protest

In the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday, about 200 protesters called on President Goodluck Jonathan to do more to recover the girls.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from the protest, said the demonstrators marching towards the president’s office were stopped by police.

Al Jazeera reports from the protest in Abuja

“The police formed a ring around the protesters who defiantly sat in the middle of the road,” he said. 

A government delegation met the marchers and delivered a statement from Jonathan.

In it, the Nigerian leader reiterated the government’s commitment to finding the girls but said protests should be directed at “the terrorists who have abducted our innocent daughters.”

The statement irked the demonstrators, who demanded to meet Jonathan.

“Please let Mr President know that none of the issues raised has been addressed,” said march organiser Obi Ezekwesili, a former education minister and World Bank executive.

Many state-run schools were shut on Thursday on the orders of the Nigerian Union of Teachers to allow a “day of protest” against the abduction of the girls, the AFP news agency reported. 

The United States announced Wednesday that 80 military personnel had been deployed to neighbouring Chad to help find the 223 missing girls.

Nigeria has also accepted help from British, French and Israeli specialists amid a groundswell of pressure fuelled by a social media campaign. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies