Nigeria Presidency Confirms ‘Backroom’ Talks With Boko Haram

Posted August 27th, 2012 at 9:05 am (UTC-5)
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A spokesman for Nigeria's president has confirmed the government is engaged in talks with Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group blamed for killing hundreds of people.

Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said “backroom” negotiations are being held to bring peace and stability, particularly in the north where most of the violence has taken place.

Abati told reporters in Abuja Sunday the government wants to understand the group's grievances in order to bring and end to the violence. However, he noted, the government will hold anyone who broke the law accountable.

The comments mark the first time a government official has publicly acknowledged Nigeria is holding peace talks with Boko Haram.

Earlier this month, a purported spokesman for the shadowy group told VOA the group was in talks with the government in response to public appeals for peace.

Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram is responsible for killing at least 1,400 people since 2010.

The radical group says it wants to impose strict Islamic law throughout the country. It does not recognize Nigeria's government or constitution.

Nigeria is divided roughly in half between a mostly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. The country of 160 million is Africa's biggest oil producer.