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The State Department will formally designate the Boko Haram sect as a “foreign terrorist organization” on Wednesday, congressional sources and others briefed on the matter said.
The designation is significant because it directs the United States law enforcement and regulatory agencies to block business and financial transactions with Boko Haram, which wants to impose Islamic law in northern Nigeria and has ties to al Qaeda.
Reuters reports that the move makes it a crime under U.S law to provide “material support” to the group. A State Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Boko Haram and other splinter Islamist groups are seen as the biggest security threat in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and top oil exporter.
In May, President Goodluck Jonathan increased a military campaign against Boko Haram. His government said last week that the sect has killed 70 civilians.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which a source said has been notified of the decision, has scheduled a hearing on the group for Wednesday.