ABUJA OCTOBER 18, 2016 (CISA) – A faction of Boko Haram which last week freed 21 of more than 200 Chibok girls kidnapped in 2014 is willing to negotiate the release of 83 more of the girls, the president’s spokesman said on October 16.
“The faction said it is ready to negotiate if the government is willing to sit down with them,” Garba Shehu, spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that the state is prepared to negotiate with the branch of Boko Haram.
Around 220 girls were taken from their school in April 2014 in Chibok in northeastern Borno state, where Boko Haram has waged a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state, killing thousands and displacing more than 2 million people.
A faction of the militant group released 21 of the girls on October 13 after the Red Cross and the Swiss government brokered a deal. They were brought from the northeastern city of Maiduguri to the capital Abuja to meet state officials.
“These 21 released girls are supposed to be tale bearers to tell the Nigerian government that this faction of Boko Haram has 83 more Chibok girls,” said Shehu.
The Islamic State-allied splinter group said the rest of the kidnapped Chibok girls were with the part of Boko Haram under the control of Abubakar Shekau, according to Shehu.
Boko Haram has apparently split with a big group moving away from Shekau over his failure to adhere to guidance from the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State, which in August named Musab al-Barnawi as its new leader for West Africa.
In recent days, the Nigerian army has been carrying out an offensive in the Sambisa forest, a stronghold of Boko Haram.
The militants controlled a swathe of land around the size of Belgium at the start of 2015, but Nigeria’s army has recaptured most of the territory. The group still stages suicide bombings in the northeast, as well as in neighboring Niger and Cameroon.