Nigerian Boko Haram Agrees to Cease-Fire, Spokesman Says

A faction of the Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram, called for an immediate cease-fire and asked the government to free detained members, a self-proclaimed spokesman said.

The group “agreed that our brethren in Islam, both women and children, are suffering unnecessarily, hence we resolved that we should bring this crisis to an end,” Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, who described himself as a Boko Haram commander, told reporters yesterday in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. “We therefore call on all those that identify themselves with us and our course, to from today lay down their arms.”

The cease-fire decision, reached after recent meetings with the Borno state government, is supported by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and can only be sustained with the release of jailed members, Abdulaziz said. Isa Umar Gusau, a spokesman for Borno, declined to confirm meetings were held with the group, saying that Governor Kashim Shettima supports “dialogue towards a peaceful resolution” of the insurgency.

Hundreds of people have died in the uprising started by the Islamist group in 2009. Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has carried out bomb and gun attacks in the north and Abuja, the capital. Nigeria’s more than 160 million people are almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south.

“This conflict will never have an end” if the government doesn’t release their detained members, Abdulaziz said.

While Nigerian security forces welcome the cease-fire announcement, they “will continue to be at alert to forestall breakdown of law and order,” Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for the Joint Task Force fighting the militants, said today by phone from Maiduguri. “The JTF will continue to protect lives and properties.”

President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, didn’t immediately respond to a call and message on his mobile phone seeking comment.

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