Islamist militant group Boko Haram is in talks with the Nigerian government to release more than 200 girls abducted six months ago and negotiate a cease-fire to a deadly insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
An adviser to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and a man calling himself the secretary-general of Boko Haram told VOA Thursday that discussions are under way in Saudi Arabia, aided by high level officials from Chad and Cameroon.
Boko Haram’s Danladi Ahmadu, who is in Saudi Arabia, said the girls are “in good condition and unharmed.”
Ahmadu would not elaborate on the conditions under which the girls would be freed. Riyadh is not involved in the negotiations.
In Abuja, a senior adviser to the Nigerian president told VOA that he could not confirm the talks in Saudi Arabia.
Doyin Okupe added that the Nigerian government continues to “explore all options to bring the girls home,” including “behind-the-scenes efforts of which the public is not aware.”
On April 14, dozens of Boko Haram fighters stormed a secondary school in the remote northeastern village of Chibok, kidnapping around 270 girls. Fifty-seven managed to escape.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau later threatened to sell the remainder as slave brides, vowing they would not be released until militant prisoners were freed from jail.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been criticized at home and abroad for his slow response to the kidnapping and for the inability of Nigerian troops to quell the violence by the militants, seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top economy and leading energy producer.