WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department announced Thursday is designated key leaders of Nigerian militant group Boko Haram as terrorists.
The State Department said that it believed Boko Haram, or associated groups, were responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 people during attacks committed in Nigeria during the last 18 months.
In a statement, it announced that Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar, and Khalid al-Barnawi, all leaders of Boko Haram, were listed as specially designated terrorists.
The designation restricts their finances that may fall under U.S. jurisdiction.
The State Department added that Barnawi and Kambar are believed to have close ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the regional arm of al-Qaida.
Boko Haram was suspected of carrying out attacks on three churches in the Christian north of Nigeria last weekend. Pope Benedict XVI, in a statement from the Vatican, encouraged Nigerians to embrace the spirit of reconciliation in the wake of the bombing.
Boko Haram is said to want an Islamic state in the country.