A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga
© Tim Cocks / Reuters
A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. REUTERS/Tim Cocks
updated 11/12/2013 6:33:26 PM ET 2013-11-12T23:33:26

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department will formally designate the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram as a "foreign terrorist organization" on Wednesday, congressional sources and others briefed on the matter said.

The designation is significant because it directs U.S. law enforcement and regulatory agencies to block business and financial transactions with Boko Haram, which wants to impose Islamic law in northern Nigeria.

The move makes it a crime under U.S. law to provide "material support" to the group. A State Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Boko Haram and other splinter Islamist groups are seen as the biggest security threat in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and top oil exporter.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alistair Bell and Will Dunham)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

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