Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari says his government is ready to negotiate with Boko Haram to secure the release of some 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Takfiri militants almost two years ago.
In a nationally televised press conference on Wednesday, Buhari said Abuja was ready to talk “without preconditions” but insisted on “identifying the bona fide so-called Boko Haram leadership.”
Boko Haram militants kidnapped a total of 276 girls from their school in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014. Several dozen girls escaped afterwards, but the fate of around 200 others is still unknown.
Nigeria’s previous attempts to hold negotiations with the militants did not yield any results as officials apparently were talking to the wrong people in the fragmented group.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Nigerian leader said there is "no firm intelligence on where those girls are physically located and what condition they are in."
“The cause of the Chibok girls is on our minds," he said.
Before the start of any talks, “we are looking for a credible Boko Haram leadership that will confirm that the girls are alive," Buhari added.
Some 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million others made homeless since the beginning of the Boko Haram militancy in Nigeria in 2009.
The militants have recently pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group which is primarily operating in Syria and Iraq.
Boko Haram has spread its attacks from northeastern Nigeria, its traditional stronghold, to the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Earlier this month, Buhari said the group has been "technically" defeated, but a wave of Boko Haram attacks in the northeastern part of the country has left over 50 people dead in recent days, undermining his claim.
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