US designates Nigeria militant groups as terrorists

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Newspapers are displayed at a vendor's stand along a road in Obalende district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States formally designated Nigerian militant groups Boko Haram and Ansaru as "Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorists" on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement.

The groups have been responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria, including attacks on churches and mosques and a 2011 suicide bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja, the statement said.

"By cutting these terrorist organizations off from U.S. financial institutions and enabling banks to freeze assets held in the United States, these designations demonstrate our strong support for Nigeria's fight against terrorism and its efforts to address security challenges in the north," Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama's top homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, said in the statement.

"We encourage Nigeria to pursue a comprehensive counterterrorism approach that uses law enforcement tools effectively, creates economic opportunity, and ensures that human rights are protected and respected," she said.