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Nigeria wants talks with islamist sect

27 September 2011, 10:24

Abuja - Nigeria's government should negotiate with an Islamist sect blamed for scores of attacks, including last month's bombing of UN headquarters, a committee appointed by the president recommended Monday.

But talks should be conditional on the militants renouncing violence, it said.

The committee launched nearly two months ago - weeks before the UN bombing - made the recommendation in its final report on insecurity in the country's northeast, where the sect known as Boko Haram has carried out most of its attacks.

"The federal government should fundamentally consider the option of dialogue and negotiation, which should be contingent upon the renunciation of all forms of violence and surrender of arms ...," committee head Usman Galtimari said of the report's findings.

A rehabilitation programme should follow, he said.

It also said the "extra-judicial killing" of the sect's ex-leader Mohammed Yusuf and other members by security agents had contributed to the problem.

Issues such as poverty and politicians' use of "private militias" had been among the factors that have also led to violence in the region, it said.

The report recommended that a new committee with greater powers be constituted to negotiate with Boko Haram.

Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo received the report and pledged the government would take action.

Series of assassinations

"Government will look at the report and act as a matter of urgency in implementing this report," he said. "It is not going to be business as usual."

Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of shootings and bomb blasts, mainly in the country's northeast. It claimed responsibility for the August 26 attack on UN headquarters in Abuja that killed at least 23 people.

There have been growing fears that the sect has formed links with outside extremist groups such as al-Qaeda's north African branch.

It is believed to include several factions and its membership and source of financing remain unclear.

Boko Haram launched an uprising in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north in 2009 that was put down by a brutal military assault which left hundreds dead.

Yusuf, its leader at the time, was captured during the assault and later killed. Police said at the time that he had been trying to escape.

It re-emerged in 2010 with a series of assassinations, while increasingly sophisticated bomb attacks have occurred in recent months.



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