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Boko Haram rules out further talks with Nigerian government

The Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram has claimed it will not engage in further talks with the government after it saw arrests of its group members the last time negotiations were held

Reuters , Wednesday 21 Mar 2012
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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan gestures during an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Villa in Abuja January 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
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A spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram has ruled out further talks with Nigeria's government after preliminary, indirect contacts aimed at ending scores of deadly attacks.

Abul Qaqa, who has claimed to speak on behalf of Boko Haram a number of times in the past, told journalists in a telephone conference late Tuesday that the government could not be trusted.

He did not give details, but a cleric who acted as an intermediary in the indirect talks, which were at a preliminary stage, said last weekend he would no longer do so because leaks to the media by the government showed it was insincere.

"Almighty God has told us repeatedly that the unbelievers will never respect the promises they made," the spokesman said. "As such, henceforth, we would never respect any proposal for dialogue.

"In fact, we have closed all possible doors of negotiation. We would never listen to any call for negotiations. Let the government forces do whatever they feel they can do, and we too would use all the wherewithal at our disposal and do what we can."

He confirmed that Boko Haram was involved in the effort made by the cleric, Datti Ahmed, and that the group had given him their conditions.

Abul Qaqa also claimed there was a previous attempt at dialogue earlier this year that led to the arrest of one of its members in the northern city of Kaduna.

"The first condition we gave was the need for unconditional release of all our members," he said.

"There was an initial meeting between us and the government and in the process, one of our members, Abu Dardaa, was arrested in Kaduna.

"Since then, we never trusted the government. However, following endless pleas by some notable Nigerians, whom we have enormous respect for, we resolved to give another chance."

He said, however, that this second opportunity "was messed up."

A security official said last week Boko Haram had proposed a three-month truce if all of its detained members were released and if the government halted any further arrests. He said the government was looking at the proposal.

A diplomatic source said there had been "real contacts" between the government and Boko Haram through intermediaries.

Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of shootings and bomb blasts, mostly in northern Nigeria, which have killed more than 1,000 people since 2009.

Abul Qaqa said Tuesday "we are optimistic that we would dismantle this government and establish Islamic government in Nigeria."

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for an August suicide attack at the UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed 25 people and for coordinated bombings and shootings in Nigeria's second city of Kano on 20 January which left 185 people dead—its deadliest assault yet.

The group had initially claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, but its aims and structure have since become less clear, while its attacks have grown increasingly deadly and sophisticated.

Calls have mounted for talks to take place, with Nigerian authorities seemingly unable to stop attacks blamed on Boko Haram that have shaken Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer.

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