By Elise Labott
The State Department will designate Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based extremist group with ties to al Qaeda, and Ansaru, an offshoot, as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, U.S. officials told CNN.
The move enables the United States to freeze assets, impose travel bans on known members and affiliates, and prohibit Americans from offering material support.
The United States says Boko Haram has killed thousands since 2009. Human rights groups put the figure at more than 3,000.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa-Fulani language, has launched a self-described "war on Christians" and seeks to impose a strict version of Sharia law across northeastern Nigeria, if not the entire country.
By CNN's Jake Tapper
At least 20 students were killed in northern Nigeria last week when Islamic militants razed their boarding school, prompting British authorities to label the group thought to be responsible, Boko Haram, a terrorist organization.
But the Obama administration has not done the same.
When asked about the attack, a senior Obama administration official said that the United States is "deeply concerned" about extremism in Nigeria, and pointed to the history of cooperation between the U.S. and Nigeria on security issues.
"We are working closely with the Nigerian government to address the growing threat of violent extremism throughout Nigeria," the senior official said, adding that the U.S. also supports vocational training programs to help discourage radicalization and recruitment throughout Nigeria.FULL STORY
By Mike Mount
Military operations to stop the growth of al Qaeda's influence in northern and western Africa will only make the violent situation there worse if done prematurely, said the top U.S. military commander overseeing operations in Africa.
The concern shows the challenge of dealing urgently with a growing threat from Northern Mali, which has become a safe haven for al Qadea-linked terrorists, who are gaining momentum across northern Africa. The al Qaeda affiliate, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been linked to the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, according to U.S. officials.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spelled out the future battle against al Qaeda, praising what has been done so far but warning much more work remains.
Speaking about the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, Panetta said, "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an attack never happens again. That means counterterrorism will continue as a key mission for our military and intelligence professionals as long as violent extremists pose a direct threat to the United States."
He said efforts against the core al Qaeda group have been largely successful. "Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last 2½ years alone - Osama bin Laden, Shaikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi."
By David McKenzie, reporting from Nairobi, Kenya
Two Iranian nationals, accused of plotting to plant explosives in Kenya, were in the advanced stages of planning of a terror attack in Kenya, according to a senior Kenyan government official familiar with intelligence updates.
"We do not want to speculate exactly on the seriousness of their plan," the official said, adding the suspects may have wanted to use Kenya as a transit point to hit targets in neighboring countries. "We are still working to uncover it. We don't allow organizations or countries to commit terror in our country, and we will prosecute such acts accordingly."
The suspects were arrested June 19 in Nairobi and led security officials to 15 kilograms (more than 30 pounds) of RDX explosives hidden at a Mombasa golf club, on Kenya's coast, according to court documents. FULL POST
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of opinion articles about national security by participants in the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 25-28 in Aspen, Colorado.
To end World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin demanded an unconditional surrender from the Nazis. But there will be no such surrender from al Qaeda. The group is not a state that is capable of entering into such an agreement, even if it wanted to do so, which seems highly unlikely.
So we are left with a choice: We can continue fighting al Qaeda indefinitely and remain in a permanent state of quasi-war, as has already been the case for more than a decade now.
Or we can declare victory against the group and move on to focus on the essential challenges now facing America, notably the country's sputtering economy, but also containing a rising China, managing the rogue regime in North Korea, continuing to delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and - to the extent feasible - helping to direct the maturation of the Arab Spring. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer
The man in charge of U.S. Africa Command calls growing cooperation between "the three most violent" Islamic extremists groups in Africa a concern for Africa and America.
Gen. Carter Ham, USAFRICOM commander, spoke Monday to a meeting of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States has designated as terrorists three senior members of Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group in Nigeria whose attacks and those of its associates have left more than a thousand dead.
The State Department announced the designation Thursday of Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar, and Khalid al-Barnawi as "specially designated global terrorists" under the authority of an existing presidential executive order.
Shekau is the most visible leader of Boko Haram, the State Department said, while al-Barnawi and Kambar maintain close links to al Qaeda affiliates as part of their role in the group.
"These designations demonstrate the United States' resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks," the State Department said in a written statement announcing the designation. "The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury."
By Jamie Crawford
The United States sanctioned an Iranian airline, three Iranian officials, a trading company and a shipping agent Tuesday for providing support to an elite Iranian military unit that has already been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
All of the entities sanctioned were involved in the shipments of weapons to the Levant, a collection of countries on the eastern Mediterranean Sea that includes Syria, as well as to Africa, the Treasury Department said in a press release.
They have all assisted Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, the Treasury Department said.
"Today's action again exposes Iran's malign influence in the Middle East, Africa and beyond," David Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the release. "As the Iranian regime exports its lethal aid and expertise to foment violence in Syria and Africa, Treasury will continue to expose the officials and companies involved and work to hold them accountable for the suffering they cause."
By Carol Cratty
The U.S. government's list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to the United States or within its borders has more than doubled over the past year, a counterterrorism official told CNN Thursday.
The "no fly" list produced by the FBI now has approximately 21,000 names on it, according to the official, who has knowledge of the government's figures. One year ago about 10,000 individuals were on it.
Only about 500 people currently on the no-fly list are Americans, the official said.
The dramatic jump in the numbers resulted from reforms made after a Nigerian man with explosives in his underwear was able to get on an international flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. It was later learned the father of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab had gone to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria prior to Christmas to raise concern about his son, but that did not result in his going on the no-fly roster.