Nigeria: Boko Haram Ends Government Negotations; Tells Police To 'Continue Killing Members'

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By Daniel Tovrov | March 22, 2012 3:41 AM EST

Nigerian rebel group Boko Haram ended negotiations with the government before they could start.

The militant Islamic sect said on Tuesday it has "closed all possible doors of negotiation" because President Goodluck Jonathan can't be trusted.

"Almighty God has told us repeatedly that the unbelievers will never respect the promises they made. As such, henceforth, we will never respect any proposal for dialogue," Abu Qaqa, who claims to be a spokesman for Boko Haram, said by phone, according to Reuters.

Boko Haram, whose name translates as "western education is a sin," has unleashed a relentless wave of violence in Nigeria during the past two years. More than 500 people have been killed by the group over the past year, according to the BBC, in bombings, gunfights and other attacks against civilian and government targets. The group is already on pace to overtake in a few months the casualty rate of 2011.

'Spirit-like' Rebels

Boko Haram, which is based in the predominantly Muslim north, has said it aims to make Nigeria a sharia state. While the northern states are already governed by sharia law, most of the sect's violence occurs in the northwest, although it has carried out attacks across the country, including the Christmas day bombings of churches of the capital city of Abuja.

After months of firm refusal to meet Boko Haram with anything but force, President Jonathan, a Christian, said in January that he was open to negotiations. Jonathan acknowledged "military confrontation alone will not eliminate terror attacks," and said he was open to dialog if the "spirit-like" rebels would make themselves known.

"If they clearly identify themselves now and say this is the reason why [they] are resisting, this is the reason why [they] are confronting government or this is the reason why [they] destroy some innocent people and their properties ... then there will be a basis for dialogue," Jonathan told Reuters at the time.

"We will dialogue, let us know your problems and we will solve your problem but if they don't identify themselves, who will you dialogue with?"

Boko Haram, however, has turned the president's words against him, claiming he hasn't made good on his promises, and therefore isn't worth a dialog with the group.

“Not long ago, President Goodluck Jonathan made a public statement urging us to come forward for dialogue," said Qaqa. "He also said we should make our demands clear with a view to resolving the protracted problem in the country.

“The first condition we gave was the need for unconditional release of all our members. There was initial meeting between us and the government and in the process, one of our members, Abu Dardaa, was arrested in Kaduna," he added.

“Since then, we never trusted the government... We would never listen to any call for negotiations. Let the government forces do whatever they feel they can do and we too would use the wherewithal at our disposal and do what we can."

Shots Fired Into Crowd

Meanwhile, as the impasse lingers, Boko Haram-led violence continues. Three people were killed Tuesday in the city of Kano after insurgents opened fire on a group playing cards outside.

“Two gunmen on a motor bike stormed the area at about 6:30 this evening. They shot into a crowd playing cards. They must have sighted men in police uniform,” a witness told Nigerian newspaper The Nation.

“About two civilians and one policeman lost their lives. I believe a number of people must have been injured as there was pandemonium when the incident occurred."

There were also unconfirmed reports of explosions going off in Kano. Members of the Joint Task Force (JTK) -- a special law enforcement division comprised of army soldiers and state police -- engaged in a gun battle with the insurgents following the card game shooting.

President Jonathan's use of the JTF has proved to be controversial, and some accuse the force of extrajudicial killings and inciting violence. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, Boko Haram attacks have increased since the JTF campaign began, although arrests of Boko Haram members have also increased.

"If the government thinks arresting our members will discourage us from launching onslaught, then let them continue arresting and killing our members," Qaqa told members of the Nigerian media on Tuesday.

"We strongly believe that Almighty Allah will give us the power to catch and prosecute government forces. We are optimistic that we would dismantle this government and establish Islamic government in Nigeria."

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