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Nigeria 'open to talks with Boko Haram'

08 March 2012, 08:35

Nigeria - Nigeria is open to eventual dialogue with resurgent Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been blamed on numerous violent attacks, the information minister said on Wednesday.

Labaran Maku said the government was appalled by Boko Haram's methods, which he called "pure terror", but said dialogue was important.

"If there is an opportunity to speak, if there are elements for example in this terror group that now see the need to renounce violence and engage in dialogue, [the] government has never been averse," Maku said.

Boko Haram was formed in 2004 and initially claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, but since then demands have varied.

The group was blamed for an increasing number of attacks in 2010 that saw a series of assassinations. Bomb blasts, including suicide attacks, have since become almost daily occurrences and are increasingly deadly.

In September, President Goodluck Jonathan, recommended dialogue with the group on condition it laid down its arms. Boko Haram declined.

Jonathan in January said Boko Haram should clarify its demands for an eventual dialogue, though that request was again rejected.

The sect has over the past two and a half years targeted mostly the police and other symbols of authority in Africa's most populous nation and recently added churches on its list of targets.

Although its specific aims remain unclear, violence by the sect since mid-2009 has claimed more than 1 000 lives, including more than 300 this year alone, according to AFP and rights groups.


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