Boko Haram Could Release Kidnapped Girls, Nigerian Officials Say
Nigerian officials reportedly reached a cease-fire with the insurgent group. The agreement would reportedly allow for the release of 219 girls that the group abducted earlier this year — but some experts cautioned that the government's claims could be politically motivated.
The Nigerian government said Friday that it reached a cease-fire agreement with Boko Haram, the jihadist organization that kidnapped 219 girls in April, according to the AFP.
"A ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Boko Haram," said Air Marshal Alex Badeh, Nigeria's top military officer.
A second Nigerian official told AFP that the ceasefire would include provisions for the release of the kidnapped girls.
"They have agreed to release the Chibok girls," said Hassan Tukur, a secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan who served as the government's representative in talks with Boko Haram.
But some experts questioned the credibility of the officials' claims, in part because news of the agreement comes as President Jonathan prepares to launch a re-election bid. Announcing the return of the girls, whose abduction inspired the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, could help Jonathan's electoral aspirations — even if the claim turns out not to be entirely true.
The Nigerian government has lied about the girls several times in the past. The government even once claimed to have rescued the girls.
In particular, experts questioned the credibility of Danladi Ahmadu, who the government said was Boko Haram's representative in the talks.
"I have never heard of Ahmadu, and if Boko Haram wanted to declare a ceasefire it would come from the group's leader Abubakar Shekau," Shehu Sani, a Boko Haram expert who has negotiated with the group before on behalf of the government, told AFP.
The Nigerian military has been fighting Boko Haram since 2009. Multiple attempts at reaching a cease-fire have proven unsuccessful.