The Nigerian military has captured top leaders of the terrorist group Boko Haram, according to local media reports.
The capture comes after Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency in northeastern Nigeria on May 14. Boko Haram is reportedly responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people since 2010.
Last week, Jonathan made a strong appeal for greater international support and cooperation to fight extremism in Nigeria. Regional support from neighboring countries to combat Boko Haram has waned in recent months for fear of reprisal attacks by the group, but as Nigeria continues to disrupt Boko Haram’s operations, the group is likely to splinter and disperse further, creating a new set of challenges and threats for Nigeria and likely the rest of the region.
While President Obama will not be visiting Nigeria on his stop in West Africa this week, he should support regional leaders such as Jonathan in their efforts to provide peace and security for their people.
The Obama Administration recently announced a $7 million reward for information leading to Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram. However, a reward is no substitute for officially designating the terrorist group as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). An FTO is a legal distinction that would remove the group’s financial backing, material support, and ability to fundraise.
Despite gains by the Nigerian military, Boko Haram remains a serious threat to the region and U.S. interests. President Obama has the opportunity to reaffirm U.S. commitment to regional security cooperation while on West African soil in Senegal. President Obama may wish to speak only about U.S. trade and investment in Africa on his trip, but where violence threatens stability, opportunity cannot flourish.