The militant Islamic group Boko Haram on Thursday denied media reports that it was holding talks with the Nigerian federal government. The group also threatened to attack those who fight against them "with the pen," that is, media houses.
Business Day Online reports that at least two foreign news organization, and some Nigerian newspapers recently reported ongoing talks between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram.
When Nigeria's Minister for Information was asked to confirm the reports on Wednesday, he declined comment, saying that state officials have been instructed not to talk about the issue.
In a message translated from Hausa and published by Saharareporters, Boko Haram spokesman Qaqa, said:
"(unedited)...we have never attempted any dialogue except that of Dr. Ibrahim Datti even that it was not direct, but via one journalist Ahmad Salkida who we trusted. And since that failed we have not done anything sort of that. We have also heard that Dr. Ibrahim Datti has also entered another plot to that effect; we are calling on elderly people to hold their respect and not dent their image."
Qaqa, in the statement released in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, added,
"...we are calling on the government to know that once it is not Sharia law that will be adopted in Nigeria, and Quran as book of laws in Nigeria, setting aside constitution that is mainly infidel’s product. Then the government should not dream about peace in Nigeria. There is no single day that Mujahideens will stop fighting in Nigeria until that is achieved and we are hopeful to triumph over Nigerian government."Business Day Online reports that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan initiated moves for talks with the militant group after accusations that the government's reaction to the Boko Haram threat came from a narrow perspective that did not address its wider political and cultural dimensions. But so far, attempts to reach out to the group and initiate talks have been unsuccessful. State officials blame the failure on the fact that the group is highly splintered and its command structure "shadowy." Abubakar Shekau, recognized as the leader of the main faction, has shown only a wavering interest in peace talks.
Boko Haram, through its spokesman Abu Qaqa, issued threats to media houses, part of a strategy to exercise control over media representation of the group. In the statement, Boko Haram reminded the media about the recent attacks on the offices of This Day Newspaper (Digital Journal) in Abuja and Kaduna, in which five people were killed. Qaqa said: "They (media houses) should understand that for us there is no difference between those fighting with arms and with the pen."
According to Business Day Online, a group of governors from the predominantly Muslim northern states of Nigeria set up a committee chaired by Babangida Aliyu, govermer of Niger Sate on Wednesday, to reach out to the militants. A statement by the committee said it would work to "get to the root of the security challenges and... dialogue with any identified groups with a view to negotiating the way out of the menace."
Analysts are, however, skeptical of the chances of the committee making any headway with its self-imposed task.
Government attempts to establish a line of communication with the group through Datti Ahmed, a former associate of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009, failed in March. According to Qaqa, there has not been any genuine move for talks with the government since then.
Media reports claim that the group's ability to launch deadly attacks has been weakened following recent arrests and deaths of leading figures.The group claims it was responsible for recent violence in the troubled Middle Belt region in which 63 people died last month, but government agents claim the violence was due to local ethnic rivalries.
Qaqa, in the latest statement, also denied a report in a US media that government officials have met a Boko Haram commander called Abu Mohammed in Saudi Arabia. Qaqa said:
"...they (media) now brought this false story that we are meeting with Nigerian government in Saudi Arabia, with one fake person called Abu-Muhammad claiming to be Imam Shekau’s assistant. It is all an agenda to confused and change the perception people in this region have about this holy war of Jihad we are fighting. By the grace of Allah they will not succeed on us, to us there is no difference between those fighting us with arms and those with pen/tongue.
"To those using our name as our representatives, they are using our name and getting money from government. We heard that they are collecting huge amount of money using dubious means. We are calling on them to fear God and repent before they fall into the hands of Allah’s soldiers."