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UN committee imposes sanctions on Nigeria's Boko Haram

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  • Nigeria schoolgirl kidnappings
image copyrightReuters
image captionUnder the command of Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks

The UN Security Council has approved sanctions against the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, five weeks after it kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls.

It will now be added to a list of al-Qaeda-linked organisations subject to an arms embargo and asset freeze.

US envoy Samantha Power said it was an "important step" in support of efforts to "defeat Boko Haram and hold its murderous leadership accountable".

Analysts say it is hard to say what practical effect the move will have.

"Boko Haram commanders and their leaders do not travel with passports, they travel on the ground in hijacked vehicles; they don't have any formal assets that anyone can point to - it is not a formal organisation," Omoyele Sowore of Nigeria's citizen journalism website Sahara Reporters told the BBC.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has been blamed for the killing of more than 30 people in attacks overnight on three villages in north-eastern Borno state.

It comes a day after another deadly village raid in Borno and twin bombings which killed 122 in the central city of Jos on Tuesday. The authorities also suspect Boko Haram of being behind those attacks, but there has so far been no claim of responsibility from the group.

Nigerian officials say President Goodluck Jonathan is due to travel to South Africa for discussions with other African heads of state on combating terrorism in Africa following on from last weekend's summit hosted by France.

Analysis: Will Ross in Abuja

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It appears staggering that it has taken this long for the UN to take this action. Boko Haram has carried out an extremely brutal campaign of violence especially over the last five years, killing thousands. The Chibok kidnapping was the game changer along with the bombings. The UK and US took similar steps last year but since then the situation on the ground has deteriorated.

Will asset freezes, arms embargoes and travel bans make any difference? Boko Haram is largely financed through bank robberies, extortion, other al-Qaeda groups and ransom payments whilst the region is awash with arms, and barracks have often been looted.

The UN decision suits the Nigerian government which wants to portray Boko Haram as an international issue partly to deflect criticism. The insurgents cross borders but it is chiefly a domestic problem. The kind of travel ban that would suit the vulnerable people in the north-east would be one which stops convoys of militants roaming freely, dishing out terror.

Earlier President Jonathan's Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, said African presidents should take responsibility for their failures and resolve their own conflicts.

"I find that our leaders, who should have been working together all along to address these problems that only affect their countries, wait until they are invited to go to Europe. Why does anybody wait for that? What image does it even give about Africa?" he said.

'Al-Qaeda training'

Boko Haram was added to the UN Security Council's al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee's list of designated entities on Thursday at the request of Nigeria.

The sanctions designation would help "close off important avenues of funding, travel and weapons" to the group, Ms Power said.

On Wednesday, Nigeria's permanent representative, Joy Ogwu, said: "The important thing is to attack the problem, and that is terrorism."

image copyrightAP
image captionA video emerged earlier this month showing about 130 of the schoolgirls held by Boko Haram
image copyrightReuters
image captionThere have been angry protests demanding that more is done to find the kidnapped girls

The BBC's Barbara Plett Usher in New York says Boko Haram's links with al-Qaeda have come under scrutiny.

Reports quoting a draft UN document said its members had received training from al-Qaeda affiliates and fought alongside them in Mali.

But Mr Sowore said he regarded the UN's move as merely "symbolic".

"I'm trying to be very nice using the word symbolic otherwise I would have called it ridiculous," he told the BBC's Newsday programme.

"One of the things that was interesting about al-Qaeda was that Osama bin Laden and his colleagues were multi-millionaires; they had rogue states like Afghanistan behind them. Those kind of assets can be traced and frozen; but Boko Haram are engaging in bank robberies, they are taking money for ransom, they don't have those kind of assets that you can go after."

Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in Nigeria through a wave of bombings and assassinations since 2009, is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.

Residents in Bauchi, which is not one of three states under emergency rule because of the insurgency, say the air force repeatedly bombed a forest where there are suspected militant camps on Thursday morning.

The government's failure to prevent attacks since launching an offensive against Boko Haram a year ago has triggered widespread anger, especially since the kidnapping of the schoolgirls.

A statement from President Jonathan read out to the demonstrators in the capital, Abuja, on Thursday said the state was doing all it could to secure their release.

He also urged them to ensure their "zeal is matched with a realistic understanding of the situation".

The statement did little to placate the crowd, and one protester shouted: "Another small window for Jonathan and he refuses to use it."

Nigeria under attack

  • 20 May: Twin bomb attacks killed at least 118 people in the central city of Jos
  • 18 May: Suicide blast on a busy street in northern city of Kano kills four, including a 12-year-old girl
  • 5 May: Boko Haram militants slaughter more than 300 residents in the town of Gamboru Ngala
  • 2 May: Car bomb claims at least 19 lives in the Nigerian capital, Abuja
  • 14 April: Twin bomb attack claimed by Boko Haram kills more than 70 at an Abuja bus station; the same day, the group abducts more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote northern town of Chibok

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