World Bulletin/News Desk
Nigeria has directed army troops across the country's restive northeastern states to hold their fire against Boko Haram after reaching a cease-fire agreement with the militant group.
In a statement, military spokesman Chris Olukolade said that Chief of Defense Staff Marshal Alex Badeh had "directed the service chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development [the cease-fire agreement] in the field."
Badeh also informed delegates at a Nigeria-Cameroon coordinating conference – devoted to trans-border military operations – of the deal, Olukolade said.
The deal, he added, comes "without any prejudice to the outcome" of the three-day forum.
Nigeria announced earlier Friday that it had sealed a ceasefire with Boko Haram. The deal also calls for the safe return of over 200 schoolgirls abducted by the group over six months ago in exchange for the release of detained group members.
"We can confirm… that there have been contacts between the government and representatives of Boko Haram," Mike Omeri, coordinator of the government-run National Information Center, told a Friday media briefing in Abuja.
"The discussions are essentially in relation to the general insecurity in the northeast and also the need to rescue all captives of the terrorists," he said.
"All captives of the terrorists, including the [abducted] students of the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, are to be released [as part of the cease-fire deal]," Omeri asserted.
The spokesman added: "From the discussions, they [Boko Haram] indicated their desire for and willingness to discuss and resolve all associated issues."
According to Omeri, the cease-fire arrangement was negotiated on Nigeria's behalf by Chadian President Idris Derby and a Boko Haram representative identified as Amodu Danladi.
The cease-fire took effect on Friday, according to the spokesman.
Omeri said the government had received assurances "that the schoolgirls, and all other people in their [Boko Haram] captivity, are alive and well," but stopped short of confirming or denying reports that many of them were pregnant or had been killed.
"Already, the terrorists have announced a cease-fire in furtherance of their desire for peace. In this regard, the government of Nigeria has in a similar vein declared a cease-fire," he added.
"This is to assure Nigerians that the greater goal of this process is to ensure the return of normalcy in the land," Omeri said.
Boko Haram has waged a violent, five-year insurgency in Nigeria's northeastern region, where more than 13,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and the local economy brought to its knees.
The group has been officially outlawed in Nigeria, Turkey and the United States.
The Nigerian army last month announced the death of a man it said had been impersonating Boko Haram's "long dead" spiritual leader, Abubakar Shekau.
In April, the group made international headlines after abducting over 200 schoolgirls in northeastern Borno State. Only 57 of the girls have since managed to escape their captors.Last Mod: 18 Ekim 2014, 10:50