Nigeria, Boko Haram reach ceasefire deal, kidnapped girls to go free, official says

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(CNN) — Nigeria has reached a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist terror group Boko Haram that includes the release of more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls, Nigerian officials said Friday.

The deal was reached Thursday night after a month of negotiations with representatives of the group, said Hassan Tukur, principal secretary to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

“We have agreed on the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, and we expect to conclude on that at our next meeting with the group’s representative next week in Chad,” Tukur said.

Officials, however, provided few details about the release.

Doyin Okupe, a government spokesman, did not specify when the girls would be freed. He said not all would be let go at once, but a “significant number” would be released soon.

“A batch of them will be released shortly, and this will be followed by further actions from Boko Haram,” he said. “It is a process. … It is not a question of hours and days.”
The Nigerian government consented to some demands by Boko Haram, but Okupe declined to provide details.

The government, he said, “is looking beyond the girls. We want to end the insurgency in this country.”

“On the war front,” he added, “we can say there is peace now.”

The agreement was first reported by Agence France-Presse.

The terrorist group abducted an estimated 276 girls in April from a boarding school in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria. Dozens escaped, but more than 200 are still missing.

Nigerian officials met with Boko Haram in Chad twice during talks mediated by Chadian President Idriss Deby, according to Tukur.

“The group has shown willingness to abide by the agreement which ‎it demonstrated with the release of the Chinese and Cameroonian hostages few days ago,” Tukur said.

A source involved in the talks told CNN last month that Nigerian government officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross had discussions with Boko Haram about swapping imprisoned members of the group for the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls. It’s unclear, however, whether the deal includes a prisoner swap.

The name “Boko Haram” translates to “Western education is sin” in the local Hausa language. The militant group is trying to impose strict Sharia law across Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.

In recent years, its attacks have intensified in an apparent show of defiance amid the nation’s military onslaught. Its ambitions appear to have expanded to the destruction of the Nigerian government.

The militant group has bombed schools, churches and mosques; kidnapped women and children; and assassinated politicians and religious leaders alike.

The group has said its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

Boko Haram was founded 12 years ago by Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic cleric who called for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria. Police killed him in 2009 in an incident captured on video and posted to the Internet.

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