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Militant Attacks Cast Doubt on Nigeria's Alleged Truce with Boko Haram

Suspected Boko Haram members carried out two deadly raids on villages mere hours after Nigerian officials claimed they negotiated a ceasefire deal with the Islamist group.
October 18, 2014, 6:30pm
Photo via AP

Suspected Boko Haram militants carried out two deadly attacks on villages mere hours after Nigerian officials claimed they negotiated a ceasefire deal with the Islamist group.

The Nigerian government allegedly struck the deal Friday to aid the release of more than 200 kidnapped girls taken by Boko Haram from their boarding school six months ago in the country's restive northeast, where the militants have waged a bloody campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate.

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At least one person was killed when gunmen attacked Abadam village on Friday night, and eight more were left dead after a raid on Dzur on Saturday morning, according to authorities and witnesses.

Mohammed Bulama, a resident of the Maiduguri city in the northeast, told Reuters his uncle was slaughtered in Abadam. It is not known if additional casualties were suffered in the attack Friday night.

Nigerian military officials declare ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram. Read more here.

The Nigerian military has denied claims the attacks were conducted by Boko Haram, whose nickname translates roughly to "western education is sinful" in the local Hausa language, and instead blamed other insurgents.

Government spokesman Mike Omeri told Reuters that, "the Boko Haram people have also said that some attacks are not undertaken by them." He said discussions for the release of the schoolgirls will continue next week in neighboring Chad.

The Nigerian government has made several unsubstantiated claims in the past regarding the whereabouts of the missing schoolgirls, even going so far as to say military forces had rescued some of them. Details of their claims have been scarce, however, and authorities have been required to backtrack a number of times on their statements.

The latest truce deal announcement coincides with the expected announcement of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan's re-election campaign in the February 2015 elections.

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Boko Haram has yet to confirm or deny the ceasefire deal. The group communicates primarily through videotaped statements made by a man who identifies himself as Abubakar Shekau, a militant leader that the government had proclaimed dead several times.

Boko Haram militants have surrounded a major Nigerian city. Read more here.

The fractured nature of the jihadist group has government officials proceeding in negotiations with caution, especially after Shekau denied a similar truce deal last year, saying in a video that whomever the government had talked to was not under his chain of command.

"We are negotiating with considerable caution," a government source told Reuters. "Boko Haram has grown into such an amorphous entity that any splinter group could come up disowning the deal. (But) we believe we are talking to the right people."

The truce announcement has been met with guarded optimism in Chibok in Nigeria's northeastern state of Borno, where the 276 schoolgirls were dragged from the school in the middle of the night on April 14.

"We don't know how true it is until we prove it," Bana Lawan, chairman of Chibok Local Government Area told the Associated Press. "We will know the negotiations were successful when we see the girls physically. And then we will know it is true. And then we will celebrate."

Five African countries declare 'war' against Boko Haram. Read more here.

Dozens of the abductees managed to escape Boko Haram in the weeks following their capture, but some 219 remain missing amid reports that many have been forced to marry their captors and convert to Islam, while others have been sold off as slaves or brides for as little as $12.

The kidnappings have drawn international condemnation and sparked a global social media campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The renewed attention in the region has caused Jonathan to rethink Nigeria's isolationist approach to dealing with Boko Haram, which the leader has long maintained is a domestic issue.

In recent months, Nigeria has teamed up with other African nations, including neighboring Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin to counter the militants, who initially sought to exchange the schoolgirls for detained members of their group. Jonathan's initial refusals to negotiate with the group have reportedly since softened.

#BringBackOurGirls is not going to stop Boko Haram. Read more here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter:@lianzifields