Nigerian Islamists Reject Muslim Cleric’s Talks With Government

Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist group blamed for a spate of bombings and gun attacks, said it opposes efforts by a Muslim cleric to help start negotiations with the government.

Sheikh Dahiru Usman said on June 5 he had established contacts with state officials and Boko Haram leaders, and both sides agreed to begin talks. Abul Qaqa, a spokesman for Boko Haram, said the group hasn’t been approached about starting a dialogue and its position remains unchanged from when it last ruled out negotiations in March.

“We have seen it published in the media that Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi said he is talking to us on dialogue, but we want the world to know that this has never happened and we call on Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi to desist from such statements,” Qaqa said in an e-mailed statement. “We have closed all doors to dialogue.”

Authorities in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, blame Boko Haram, which seeks to impose strict Islamic law in the country, for a surge in attacks in the mainly Muslim north and the capital, Abuja, in which hundreds of people have died this year.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration insists talks will be held with the militants “on the condition that their leader will come out and announce a cease-fire for three months or a minimum of 40 days” after which the government will stop arresting their members, Usman said yesterday, showing reporters a letter he said was written to the sect leaders by the government.

Reuben Abati, a spokesman for Jonathan, didn’t answer two calls on his mobile phone or respond to an e-mail seeking comment yesterday.

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