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Reports: US to Name Boko Haram as Terrorist Organization

FILE - A poster announcing a reward for the capture of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is seen on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri in the north-eastern Nigerian state of Borno.
The U.S. State Department is reportedly set to name the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization.

U.S. media reports say the designation will be made Wednesday, as a U.S. Congressional subcommittee holds a hearing on the threat posed by the group, which is blamed for thousands of deaths in northern Nigeria.

Before the meeting, committee chairman Christopher Smith said Boko Haram fits the definition of a terrorist group and should be designated as such.

The move would make it illegal to provide material support to Boko Haram and allow U.S. regulators to block business and financial transactions with the group.

In June of last year, the State Department designated Boko Haram's most visible leader, Abubakar Shekau, a terrorist, along with two other men, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi, who allegedly have ties to Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Boko Haram's name in the Hausa language means "Western education is a sin." The group has battled the Nigerian government since 2009, with frequent attacks on police stations, jails, and government officials, as well as civilian targets like churches and mosques.

The group is believed to be fighting for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, although much about its membership, leadership and structure remains unclear.

Nigeria's government declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states in May and has sent thousands of troops to battle the group. But attacks continue, amid accusations the military has killed hundreds of civilians through indiscriminate and heavy-handed violence.

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