Nigeria in talks with Islamists via 'back channels'

August 26, 2012 22:44

ABUJA - Nigeria's government is reaching out to radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, talking with some of its members via "back room channels" as it seeks a peaceful way out of the north's conflict, the president's spokesman said on Sunday.

The militants ruled out peace talks in a statement on Thursday, unless the government accepts their demand to turn the roughly evenly mixed Muslim-Christian country of 160 million people into an Islamic state.

But Reuben Abati, spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, told journalists talks were going on with some members.

"The form of the dialogue is back room channels ... to reach across with the objective of understanding what exactly the grievances of these persons are, what exactly can be done to resolve the crises," he told press at the presidential villa.

The Taliban-style movement has killed hundreds in gun and bomb attacks since launching an insurrection in 2009, making it the biggest security threat to Africa's top energy producer.

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