Boko Haram commander declares Nigeria ceasefire
By Ibrahim Mshelizza
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - A purported commander of Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday, raising fresh questions about possible rifts within the secretive militant movement as it was not clear if he was speaking for the group.
Sheik Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, a man local security sources say is a sect member, twice made statements last year saying Boko Haram is ready for peace talks with the government.
But the group, whose attacks have left hundreds dead since it launched an uprising to try to carve an Islamic state out of Nigeria in 2009, has continued its insurgency unabated. The latest statement is likely to be greeted with skepticism.
In the remarks in English sent to journalists in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, Boko Haram's headquarters, Abdulazeez said Boko Haram had declared "a ceasefire throughout the country with immediate effect ... following a series of meetings with government officials."
It added that he had "the consent and approval of our leader Abubakar Shekau and I call on all members to stop hostilities."
It is unclear if Abdulazeez really is speaking on behalf of Shekau - who has not come out to confirm or denounce him - or whether he represents a rival faction of the Islamist movement seen as the main security threat to Africa's top oil exporter.
The statement came through the usual channels Boko Haram have used to deliver messages; through the Borno state journalists union. It was signed by Abdulazeez who also called to confirm it, union members said.
Shekau denied claims by the government that behind-the-scenes peace talks were being held in October last year, but he has remained silent since Abdulazeez made contact with press in November. Continued...