A purported spokesman for the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram says the group is engaged in direct talks with the government on ending violence in the country's north.
In a statement obtained by VOA, Habu Mohammed, who claims to be a deputy to Boko Haram leader Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, says the militant group decided to initiate the peace moves in response to numerous public appeals for peace in the country. The statement was given to VOA in Mecca.
The Nigerian government has not responded to the claim, but senior Nigerian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the talks to VOA. They would not provide additional details.
The Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Nigeria, including church bombings and the bombing of a United Nations building. The group has threatened international media organizations, including VOA's Hausa service.
The militant group has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and says it does not recognize the Nigerian government or the constitution.
Several previous attempts by the Nigerian government to engage Boko Haram have failed.