Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nigeria Launches Boko Haram Fact-Finding Panel

2 August 2011

The Nigerian government has launched a fact-finding mission into the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks in the northeast and in the capital, Abuja.

Know thy enemy.  That appears to be the first order of business for the government committee officially inaugurated Tuesday.  Its seven members have two weeks to assess the security challenges in Nigeria's northeastern Borno State.

The committee marks the first real step toward a non-military solution regarding Boko Haram, which launched a brief and violent uprising against the government in July 2009.  The group has since been blamed for a string of bombings and shootings that have targeted churches, public gathering places, and authority figures such as police officers, clergy, and government officials.

The committee was originally tasked with opening negotiations with the militants.  But the secretary to the Nigerian government, Anyim Pius Anyim, said Tuesday that would be getting ahead of themselves. "That should be the second leg of the assignment.  You don't negotiate with who you don't know.  We don't know these people.  They are faceless.  You don't negotiate with the air.  We are providing a forum where whatever information you have, whatever opinion you have, whatever suggestion you have, relay it to this body," Anyim stated.

Indeed, much is unknown about Boko Haram, including its size, leadership and level of organization.

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