MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - A purported spokesman for Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram said on Tuesday the group had “closed all possible doors of negotiation” with a government of “unbelievers” that it cannot trust, and called on Muslims to join the fight against it.
The statement to local journalists in the sect’s heartland of Maiduguri came two days after a Muslim cleric brokering initial peace talks pulled out, dimming hopes of a negotiated end to the insurgency.
“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, a shadowy figure who frequently communicates with journalists on the sect’s behalf, said by phone in the northern Hausa language.
The departure of Datti Ahmed, a former ally of Boko Haram’s founder, could be a major blow for talks which were only in their early stages, although some security sources doubt peace talks are possible with a sect so fragmented and radicalised.
The negotiations were aimed at ending months of bomb and gun attacks by Boko Haram that killed hundreds, mostly in the majority Muslim north, and have at times dominated Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency.
The group has said it wants to impose Islamic sharia law across the oil-rich country split equally between Christians and Muslims.
“We are certain we will dismantle this government and establish Islamic government in Nigeria,” Abu Qaqa said. “There is no doubt in our minds we will emerge victorious. We are calling on all Muslims in this part of the world to accept the clarion call and fight for the restoration of the Caliphate.”
Political and diplomatic sources told Reuters last week that people close to Boko Haram had been carrying messages back and forth between the sect’s self-proclaimed leader Abubakar Shekau and government officials.
Three days later, Datti pulled out, saying he could not trust the government after news of the talks was leaked.
The latest statement from Abu Qaqa was unusually detailed.
He talked about restoring the Caliphate of Usman dan Fodio, ruler of 18th century Sokoto, one of West Africa’s most powerful Islamic kingdoms in which he said “the white man fought and destroyed,” during Nigeria’s colonisation by Great Britain.
He confirmed the details of the meetings between mediators going between the government and said Datti, whom he said the sect had “enormous respect” for, had made contact with them offering to mediate talks.
They accepted on condition the government releases their jailed members, he said, but then talks fell through.
“As far as we are concerned, we know that the federal government will not live up to its responsibility. A true believer will not allow himself to be cheated twice.”
Recent arrests and deaths of senior figures have weakened the group, analysts say.
It has not managed to launch a widescale, coordinated attack since one in Kano that killed 186 people in January, reverting to crude bomb attacks and drive by shootings.
Suspected Boko Haram militants on the back of a motorcycles opened fire on a police checkpoint in Sharada, Kano state, on Tuesday, killing a policeman and two civilians, Kano police Lieutenant Iweha Ikedichin said.
Nigerian authorities blamed a faction of the sect for the killings of a British and Italian hostages two weeks ago in the northwest, although Qaqa has denied any link.