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Nigeria In Talks With Boko Haram About Possible Ceasefire | The Precision

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Lai Mohammed
Nigeria’s government is in talks with Boko Haram about a possible ceasefire with the ultimate aim of
securing a permanent cessation of hostilities, information
minister, Lai Mohammed said on Sunday. 

It is the first time in years
the government has said it is talking to the radical group about a ceasefire in
an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people since 2009.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has repeatedly said it is
willing to hold talks with the group. 
“Unknown
to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the
insurgents for some time now,” said Information Minister Lai Mohammed in
an emailed statement outlining the background to the release of more
than 100 schoolgirls freed last week by the group. 
 
They
had been kidnapped on Feb. 19 from the northeastern town of Dapchi. The
kidnap of about 110 schoolgirls was the biggest mass abduction since
around 270 girls were taken from the northeastern town of Chibok, in
2014. 
Boko Haram fighters stunned Dapchi’s residents on
Wednesday when they drove into the town and released the girls, who said
five of their group had died in captivity and one had not been freed. 
Mohammed
said a week-long ceasefire, starting on March 19, had been agreed to
enable the group to drop off the girls. Mohammed said 111 girls were
taken from the school – one more than previously thought – and six
remained unaccounted for. 

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The freed girls were returned
home to Dapchi on Sunday after meeting Buhari in the capital, Abuja,
last week, according the parents of at least two girls.

FACTIONS

“We were able to leverage on the wider talks when the Dapchi girls were abducted,” said Mohammed. 
“The
ultimate aim is the permanent cessation of hostilities,” he later told
Reuters by telephone. A presidential spokesman declined to comment. A
spokeswoman who purportedly represents the insurgents could not
immediately be reached. 
Boko Haram aims to create an
Islamic state. Its campaign has spread to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon
and Niger but the group has been severely weakened in recent years by
regional military pressure and it has lost most of the territory it once
held. 
Antony Goldman, of Nigeria-focused PM Consulting, said it would be difficult to negotiate with the group due to its divisions. 
Boko
Haram split when Islamic State named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the
group’s leader in August 2016. The other main division is led by
Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s most recognizable figure. He is known for
videos taunting Nigerian authorities and his faction uses girls as
suicide bombers. 
“There are many factions, some of which
have committed terrible atrocities and have a world vision incompatible
with the rule of law and constitutional democracy – but other elements
may be ready to settle,” said Goldman. 

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Security is a
politically sensitive issue ahead of an election next February because
Buhari was elected in 2015 in part because of his promise to improve
security. For years he has said Boko Haram is defeated. 
Nigeria
has also seen several recent outbreaks of communal violence and it is
trying to maintain a fragile peace in the Niger Delta where militant
attacks on oil facilities helped push Africa’s biggest economy into a
recession in 2016. 
Buhari has in the last few weeks toured areas hit by security problems but has not said if he will seek re-election. (Reuters)

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