The United States on Thursday condemned violence against offices of a Nigerian newspaper that killed eight people, saying that the attacks targeted “free speech itself.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that it was up to Nigeria to determine the culprits of the attacks but voiced solidarity with concerns about Boko Haram, an Islamist group that has purportedly threatened media.
Nuland said that the United States “strongly” condemns the suicide attack at the Abuja bureau of leading newspaper ThisDay, as well as an attempted car bombing at another of its offices.
“This is an attack not only on innocent people but on free speech itself in Nigeria and we call for a full investigation holding those responsible to account,” Nuland told reporters.
Nuland said that the United States was not in a position to determine the culprits or whether the attacks would affect deliberations on whether the United States should designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group.
“That said, we share the concerns about the threat that Boko Haram poses and this is among the reasons that we cooperate so strongly with Nigeria,” she said.
The United States contributes security, economic and political support in hope “that the vulnerable populations in the north of Nigeria can’t be attracted or coerced by Boko Haram,” she said.
Several US lawmakers have urged the State Department to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, a legal step that would make any contributions from the United States to the group a crime.
State Department officials have largely opposed the move, arguing that Boko Haram’s grievances are local and that a formal designation by Washington could worsen the situation.
At a recent congressional hearing, Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, instead urged greater efforts to address alleged abuses and marginalization in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north.
A purported spokesman for the Islamist group had recently made threats against news media outlets, saying they were being used by authorities to publish stories against Boko Haram.