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Amid battles, Boko Haram offers dialogue with Nigerian president

A caller claiming to speak for the Islamist militant group Boko Haram called a local TV station on Sunday demanding 'one on one' dialogue with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

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It is unclear why Boko Haram would suggest talks at this time, but there was nothing in the tone of the phone call to AIT to suggest that the group was wavering or suffering from exhaustion.

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"I am going to summarize what we want," the caller said. "Firstly, release some people [the president] arrested. Secondly, if Jonathan wants to cooperate with us, he must follow what the letter we sent [said]…. He knows what we want ... the application of sharia Islamic law [in the north]...:"

After calling for "one-on-one" talks with President Jonathan, the caller was asked, "You people want to negotiate with the President directly?"

The caller replied: ”They are the ones causing our riot…. It’s a problem, and if he wants to make negotiations with us directly here, two conditions: First, he must come to Yobe State, with no police or security with him…. Second, he must appear at AIT station, we will put a number, he will call us and we tell him our reason. We want to talk to him openly, we want the public to know what the problem is, and we don’t want to say something privately. We want it openly.”

The offer has received a mixed reaction. Christian pastors and some politicians have called on the government to remain firm against Boko Haram, while others, including the secretary general of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, have appealed to the government to negotiate. 

If Jonathan does open dialogue with Boko Haram, he could anger Nigeria's Christian community, which is powerful in Nigerian politics, and which dominates much of the economically prosperous southern part of the country.

Last week, the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oritsejafor, told reporters that he could no longer guarantee that Christian pastors would urge their parishioners to remain restrained when their community comes under attack.

“I will now make a final call to the Nigerian government to use all resources available to it to clearly define and neutralize the problem as other nations have done,” Mr. Oritsejafor said, according to Agence France Presse. “The Church leadership has hitherto put great restraint on the restive and aggrieved millions of Nigerians, but can no longer guarantee such cooperation if this trend of terror is not halted immediately.”

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