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Boko Haram Hasn't Acted On Promise To Release Kidnapped Girls


It was only last Friday that the Nigerian government said it had reached a cease-fire with Boko Haram. The Islamic insurgents have terrorized northeastern Nigeria since 2009. In April they kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls. And as part of the truce announced last week, the Nigerian government said Boko Haram would release the girls. But that hasn't happened. And now comes reports of more kidnappings, as many as 60 young women and girls. Bate Felix has been following this story for Reuters and he joins us from Abuja, Nigeria. Welcome to the program.

BATE FELIX: Hi, good evening.

CORNISH: The last we heard was about cease-fire talks and a possible truce but there was no word from Boko Haram militants. What is the state of the cease-fire talks?

FELIX: Well, they are still ongoing from what we've been hearing from Nigerian officials and from Chadian officials who are mediating in the talks. But we haven't heard from Boko Haram which is quite strange. They have not come out to deny or to acknowledge the fact that they're talking to Nigerian officials which makes some people believe that actually there is something happening. But some people are still doubtful.

CORNISH: As for the girls kidnapped last April, is there any sign that any of them might be returned or have been returned?

FELIX: So far no sign as far as we know. One of them did manage to escape about a month ago. But for the rest of the group we haven't heard anything. The Chadians are pretty confident that the people they're talking to who claim to be representing Boko Haram, those people may be able to deliver. The Nigerians also seem confident that they may be able to obtain something. But everybody is just waiting to see if it's going happen.

CORNISH: And you mentioned the government of Chad involved in these talks. In the meantime, there were reports of new Boko Haram kidnappings, as many as 60 young women and girls. What more can you tell us about that?

FELIX: From what we have learned from officials, both on the Chadian side and on the Nigerian side, are currently - everybody knows Boko Haram is not a homogeneous organization. It seems as if they are factions within the organization. And some within the group may not be too happy to continue with this cease-fire or agree to this cease-fire.

CORNISH: So there's no particular one leader that rules all of these factions.

FELIX: No, no, and it seems apparently that a faction of this group may have carried out these latest kidnappings. The Chadian authorities believe it is a faction. The Nigerian authorities believe it's just some group of bandits who are claiming to be Boko Haram.

CORNISH: Remind us of the background here. Why kidnapping? Why does Boko Haram choose this particular terror technique?

FELIX: Well, to them it's a means to an end. It's a means to get their name out there. It's a means to show that they can actually destabilize northern Nigeria and obtain whatever they want.

CORNISH: Do they ever return any of their victims? Is this a source of revenue at all in terms of ransom?

FELIX: Yes, indeed. As we've seen especially in the cases in northern Cameroon, especially. You have the 17 Cameroonians and 10 Chinese workers that were returned for ransom. So apparently, you know, for some this is a business but to some there is a real (inaudible).

CORNISH: Help us understand the background to these talks. Why would the Nigerian government come out and say that it had cease-fire, that had a truce if it sounds like that really isn't the case?

FELIX: Well, some people I've spoken with said this may apparently be a political ploy. Everybody is expecting President Goodluck Jonathan to announce that he will be contesting in next year's presidential election. I mean, if he manages to obtain the release of the girls and obtain a cease-fire it will be a big political boost for him. And many believe that the administration kind of jumped the gun a little bit to announce that just for political gains.

CORNISH: Bate Felix is a correspondent for Reuters. He spoke with us from Abuja, Nigeria. Thank you so much.

FELIX: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.