Monday, January 28, 2013

Boko Haram declares ceasefire, gives conditions for peace

• Seeks freedom for arrested members, rebuilding of Yusuf’s mosque
CITING the need to spare women and children further calamities engendered by its activities, Boko Haram Monday declared a ceasefire.
But the ceasefire came with some conditions: Freedom for the arrested members of the group and the rebuilding of the destroyed mosque of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
Declaring the ceasefire Monday through a tele-conference at the Borno State Radio and Television (BRTV), spokesman of Boko Haram, and second-in-command of the group, Sheikh Abdul Aziz said: “This ceasefire being announced today, is a goodwill message from the Jamaatul Ahlus Sunnah Lid Dawatil wal Jihad (Boko Haram), following a series of meetings with government officials and leaders of thought in Borno State.
“I am announcing this ceasefire with the consent and approval of the leader of Boko Haram sect, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau. We therefore, call on all our members to stop all acts of violence immediately and await further directives. We have adopted this measure as a result of the hardship women and children are subjected to.”
He added that members of the Boko Haram should relate the ceasefire message to those “who are not aware or informed of today’s (Monday) development.”
Aziz explained: “The Boko Haram ceasefire is nationwide and commences immediately.”
He, however, denied the group’s involvement in the recent attacks and killings in Borno and other parts of the North, attributing the violence to the activities of armed robbers and other criminals that allegedly operate under the guise of Boko Haram.
While speaking on the violence that took over Maiduguri recently, Aziz distanced the group from such acts, pointing out that such attacks were politically-motivated by those seeking power in the Borno Emirate Council, government or otherwise, but not in line with the ideology of the group who are fighting for the cause of Allah.
He also said that the burning of old and newly constructed primary schools witnessed across the state was not masterminded by the group, insisting that the burning of such places was carried out by aggrieved politicians who were denied contracts from the state government.
He also urged the Joint Task Force (JTF) and other security agents to respond positively to the ceasefire.
He said: “Talks with government officials on how to surrender our arms and weapons has also commenced,” urging members of the sect to cooperate fully, by surrendering their arms and weapons to security agents.
Confirming the ceasefire, Borno State Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Isa Umar Gusau said that the Boko Haram insurgency was a national security issue, which involved the Presidency, National Security Adviser and JTF.
Gusau also said: “The ceasefire announced today was also as a result of Governor Kashim Shettima’s efforts at exploring all means to end the insurgency.”
Members of the group had on November 1 last year said they were ready to ceasefire and listed some conditions. The conditions included the arrest and prosecution of a former governor of Borno State, and also that the dialogue must take place in Saudi Arabia.
They had also demanded that all their members, who were arrested and under the custody of security agencies be released immediately, just as their wives and children who were displaced following the crises should be rehabilitated into the society to allow room for dialogue with the Federal Government.
Nigerian mediators who were to represent the group in the dialogue with the Federal Government had included Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Ambassador Gaji Galtimari and Barrister Aisha Wakil and her husband.
Boko Haram, which in Hausa, loosely translates to mean “Western education is sinful”, said they were fighting to impose Islamic law on Nigeria.
At least 2,800 people have died in the North and Abuja since the group unleashed violence in 2009. Its most lethal attack killed at least 186 people in Kano in January 2012 in co-ordinated bombings and shootings.
The group has repeatedly struck churches during services, at Christmas and Easter killing scores of people. A bomb attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla on Abuja’s outskirts during a packed Christmas Mass in 2011 killed at least 37 people.
Last Easter Sunday, a bombing at a church compound in northern Kaduna during a service killed at least 36 people.
In other major attacks, gunmen killed at least 19 people in two attacks on Christian worshippers in the Nigerian city of Kano and in the northeastern town of Maiduguri on April 29, 2012.
In June, three gunmen sprayed bullets at the congregation of a church in Biu Town, in northeastern Borno State. In Jos, a Boko Haram suicide bomber drove a car to the entrance of the Christ Chosen Church and blew it up.
In the same month, a bomb attack in a church in Kaduna triggered a week of tit-for-tat violence that killed at least 90 people.
In October a suicide bomber drove a sport utility vehicle full of explosives into a Catholic church during morning mass, killing eight and wounding more than 100. The most recent attack on a church a few weeks ago was when suicide bombers struck the St. Andrew Military Protestant Church at the Jaji barracks in Kaduna State killing 11 people and wounding 30.

-culled from The Guardian

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