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US Urging Nigerians to Unite Against Boko Haram

The United States is urging Nigerians to stand united against "enemies of civility and peace" in the radical Muslim sect Boko Haram. U.S. counter-terrorism officials are in Nigeria after attacks Friday killed at least 185 people in the northern city of Kano.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says U.S. counter-terrorism officials are meeting with Nigerian colleagues as part of a regional security cooperation working group.

"Obviously we were comparing analyses of the threat, and we were talking about how we might strengthen cooperation so that we can better help the Nigerian government get its arms around Boko Haram and comparing analysis how we might do that together," said Nuland.

Nuland says the Obama administration condemns the terrorist attacks in Bauchi state and Kano and is urging Nigerians to use their ethnic and religious diversity as a source of strength against those who are trying to divide the country.

"We are also sending a message very strongly to all people of Nigeria to settle their issues peacefully and respectfully of each other's differences," she added.

Boko Haram militants say they are fighting for the establishment of an independent, Sharia-led nation in northern Nigeria and recognize neither the federal constitution nor the authority of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed at least 935 people since its campaign of violence began in 2009, including 250 people this year alone. The U.S.-based human rights group Tuesday called on the Jonathan government to increase police patrols in violence-prone areas and do more to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

State Department spokeswoman Nuland says the Obama administration backs a full investigation into violence across northern states.

"Anybody involved in violence, instability against the Nigerian state, against innocent civilians needs to be brought to justice," Nuland said. "These are precisely the kinds of issues that we are in discussion with the Nigerian government about. They themselves are trying to get their arms around how they can do more, how they can provide greater peace and stability and calm."

Critics of the government's military approach to Boko Haram say President Jonathan should focus more on the underlying economic and social causes of the violence.

Nuland says Washington is working with Nigerian leaders and others in the international community to promote greater economic development and long-term growth throughout northern Nigeria.