November 1, 2012

On this day, the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, said it was willing to enter into peace talks with Nigeria’s government if such talks were held in Saudi Arabia and spearheaded by a former Nigerian military ruler, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

According to a spokesperson to the group, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, “We are not actually challenging the state as people are saying, but the security (forces) who are killing our members, children and wives. If this government is sincere, (attacks) will come to an end.” He added that Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) had to be the negotiator during the talks.

It was the first contact by Boko Haram since the Nigerian security forces claimed that they had killed its spokesperson known by the alias Abu Qaqa earlier in September of this same year. A senior security source said that the demands of the group were being considered as potentially genuine. “The fact of asking Buhari to be involved is telling. Like the average northerner, the bulk of Boko Haram members believe Buhari is a stalwart Moslem who will not be swayed into betrayal by politics”, the source said.

Boko Haram began as a largely peaceful movement in the north-east of Nigeria before it radicalised and began demanding the nationwide application of strict sharia law. By the time it had struck the United Nations headquarters in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, earlier in August this year, outside help and training were already coming from al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Afghanistan and Algeria, security sources said. The militant group’s most powerful and active branch was initially headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Members of the group have met senior al-Qaida figures during visits to Saudi Arabia, Abu Qaqa claimed.

Previous attempts to hold peace talks have collapsed, but insiders say efforts towards reaching the group have improved since President Goodluck Jonathan replaced his security adviser with a retired army colonel from the muslim north.

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