Boko Haram talks liason pulls out

2012-03-18 15:56

Lagos - A respected cleric mediating in peace talks between the Nigerian government and the Boko Haram Islamist sect announced on Saturday he was quitting the talks, accusing the government of insincerity.

Ibrahim Datti Ahmad who heads the Supreme Council for Shari'ah in Nigeria (SCSN) has been a go-between in the indirect talks between Boko Haram and the government aimed at ending a two-year insurgency that has left over 1 000 people dead.

Ahmad said in a statement that he and his colleague decided to quit over an alleged leaking of details of the talks to the media.

"This development has embarrassed us very much and has created strong doubt in our mind about the sincerity of the government as the discussion is supposed to be very confidential," he said.

"In view of this unfortunate and unhelpful development we have no option but to withdraw from these early discussions," Ahmad added. "We sincerely regret that an opportunity to negotiate and terminate this cycle of violence is being missed."

A security official said Boko Haram had proposed a three-month truce if all of its detained members are released and if the government halts any further arrests. He said the government was looking at the proposal.

Ahmad's statement said he contacted the sect through a journalist "who maintained a valuable professional contact with the leadership of the sect".

Ahmad formed the SCSN as a muslim pressure group that agitated for the reintroduction of shari'ah law in 12 predominantly muslim states in the north when the country returned to democratic rule in 1999.

The group drew membership largely from radical muslim clerics, including Mohammed Yusuf, the slain leader of Boko Haram.

The sect had initially claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, but its aims and structure have since become less clear, while its attacks have grown increasingly deadly and sophisticated.