The leader of militant Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has rejected talks with the government, according to a newly released video. Meanwhile, security forces said they had killed 20 fighters from the group.
The video was distributed to journalists in the northeastern city of Maidguri on Sunday. The statements were made by a speaker strongly believed to be Abubakar Shekau, who leads the militant movement.
Speaking in the Hausa language, used in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north, the speaker said that the group would continue to wage war against the state until Nigeria was ruled under Islamic law. He also denied a claim by a purported commander with the group, Sheik Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, that there had been talks between Boko Haram and the government.
"Abdulaziz has not been speaking on my behalf and I disassociate myself from him completely," the message said, adding that the group "has at no time offered a ceasefire and we are not in dialogue with government. Neither are we prepared for it until the conditions we laid down have been met."
Abdulaziz, who is known to Nigerian security forces, told journalists at the end of January that there would be a ceasefire that never materialized.
"I swear by Allah that Abdulaziz or whatever he is calls himself did not get any authority from me to represent me in any capacity. I do not know him," the message said. "If we per adventure encounter Abdulaziz and his group, I swear by Allah we are going to mete them with the grave judgment that Allah has prescribed for their likes in the holy book."
Rockets and Kalashnikovs
Nigeria’s military on Sunday said that 20 Boko Haram militants had been killed when it repelled an attack by them on a military barracks in the northeastern state of Borno.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa did not say if any soldiers had been wounded or killed in the attack, and did not address a report that at least one civilian had been killed. Nigeria’s military is said to routinely downplay civilian and soldier casualty figures.
Musa said that the gunmen, armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, had attacked the site in jeeps and motorcycles.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege," has been engaged in a guerrilla war, involving regular bombings across the north of the country, for the past two years. The group is blamed for at least 792 killings last year alone.
rc/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters)