U.S. Rep. Peter King stands before a news conference in...

U.S. Rep. Peter King stands before a news conference in front of One Police Plaza in Manhattan on March 5, 2012. Credit: Craig Ruttle

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Peter King Thursday criticized Hillary Rodham Clinton for refusing as secretary of state to give a "foreign terrorist organization" designation to Boko Haram, the radical Nigerian group that recently abducted more than 200 young women students.

King (R-Seaford) said that when he chaired the House Homeland Security Committee, he and others repeatedly urged Clinton in 2011 and 2012 to make the designation.

It wasn't until November 2013, after Clinton had stepped down, that the State Department finally gave the group the designation.

"This is clearly a failure of the secretary of state," King said, referring to Clinton. "She refused to call Boko Haram a terrorist organization."

Clinton could not be reached for comment.

In the past few days, Clinton has called Boko Haram's abductions of the schoolgirls a "crime" and "an act of terrorism." She also tweeted on Sunday: "We must stand up to terrorism. #BringBackOurGirls".

Designation of a group as a "foreign terrorist organization" allows the Treasury Department to freeze its assets and Justice Department to take action against it.

Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) first wrote Clinton asking her to label Boko Haram a terror group in September 2011, three weeks after its attack on a United Nations office in Abuja, Nigeria, killed 23 people.

As Boko Haram increased its deadly attacks, King and others -- including the Justice Department -- joined in urging Clinton to make the designation.

In June 2012, the State Department designated Boko Haram leaders as terrorists but not the group itself.

State did not take the action at first because of Nigeria's resistance, and later to avoid giving credibility to the group.

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