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U.S. Ignores the Nigerian Terrorist Group IPOB at its Peril

U.S. Ignores the Nigerian Terrorist Group IPOB at its Peril

State Department needs to designate Indigenous People of Biafra as a foreign terrorist organization.

An African terrorist organization is suing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in U.S. federal court. It beggars belief.

So how did it happen?

The answer is frustratingly simple. The violent secessionist group in question – the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – is yet to be designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the US Department of State. This is despite repeated pleas to do so by longstanding U.S. ally Nigeria, where IPOB is based and carries out its murderous activities.

It is difficult to explain how U.S. interests are served by inaction and complacency on IPOB. The listing costs nothing. But the designation would have significant implications for the group’s continuance.

Let’s start with the obvious: Tagging the group with a terror label would hit IPOB’s wallet hard.

As soon as the designation is applied, no organization that utilizes U.S. currency would be able to legally conduct transactions with the organization. By cutting off IPOB’s funding, the U.S. would weaken the 50,000 strong paramilitary outfit and provide Nigeria’s security forces room to train their sights squarely on ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram in the Northeast of the country. Counterterrorism operations against Boko Haram have long been assisted by U.S. agencies working in close coordination with the West African government.

Though IPOB may appear to be Abuja’s problem alone, the militants have served as a distraction and bled precious resources. Over the past eighteen months, Boko Haram has regrettably been able to regroup and rejuvenate. The same is true of Al Qaeda-affiliated groups across the volatile Sahel region. That the African continent is rapidly becoming a staging ground for global terror operations should concern U.S. officials.

But Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB’s leader, is clearly unconcerned. That he feels no need to even disguise his support of terrorism is worrisome. Though IPOB’s principal aim is to restore a breakaway state of Biafra in the Southeastern parts of Nigeria, Mr. Kanu’s rhetoric has become increasingly strident. “I don’t want peaceful actualization (of Biafra),” Mr. Kanu has said through his Radio Biafra channel, used to project threats, instructions, and propaganda into Nigeria from the safety of London. “If they don’t (give us Biafra), they will die.”

Neither does Mr. Kanu make idle threats. The December revelation of IPOB’s 50,000 strong-armed paramilitary wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), complete with a Swastika-style flag, marked the end to all pretenses of being a peaceful movement. What had been largely

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