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Nigeria, Boko Haram Appear to Move Toward Talks

FILE - People shout slogans and hold a banner during a demonstration in Abuja, Nigeria.
FILE - People shout slogans and hold a banner during a demonstration in Abuja, Nigeria.

Talks to free more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Nigerian militants last April did not begin as projected on Tuesday, although there are signs the militants and Nigeria's government are preparing for the talks in Chad.

A prominent Nigerian newspaper, This Day, reported Tuesday that a federal government negotiating team has departed for the Chadian capital, N'djamena.

Meanwhile, a purported leader of militant group Boko Haram, Danladi Ahmadu, has told VOA's Hausa service that he is heading to Chad to await word on when the talks will start.

Hassan Tukur, a top aide to Nigeria's president, told VOA that there was never a meeting planned for Tuesday, despite a report to the contrary from another presidential aide Doyin Okupe. But Tukur says the negotiations with Boko Haram are "ongoing and legitimate."

Nigeria's government is holding to the cease-fire deal with Boko Haram it announced on Friday, despite attacks in northeastern Nigeria that killed dozens over the weekend.

The government has blamed some of the attacks on "fringe" Boko Haram fighters, while Amadu said attacks in the town of Damboa on Sunday were the work of armed robbers.

News of the possible talks has raised hopes Boko Haram will release the schoolgirls it abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok.

The militant group has terrorized Nigeria for the last five years as it tries to turn the Muslim-majority north into a conservative Islamic state. Bombings, gun attacks and raids on towns and villages have left thousands of people dead.

The kidnapping of the girls from a secondary school in the town of Chibok sparked outrage around the world, and increased pressure on the Nigerian president to stop the militants. The insurgency is a major issue as Nigeria prepares to hold general elections in February.