Nigeria seeks talks with Islamist group Boko Haram By BBC | Monday, August 1   2011 at  12:55

Soldiers at a military checkpoint in northern Nigeria. Photo | BBC 

Nigeria's government is to inaugurate Tuesday a negotiation panel to engage with the Islamist sect Boko Haram.

Over the weekend the government of President Goodluck Jonathan announced it wanted to start negotiating with the Islamist group, which has been blamed for a series of recent attacks.

The government said the panel would open talks with the group and report back by 16 August.

There was no immediate reaction to the statement from Boko Haram.

The group is fighting to topple the government and create an Islamic state.

In recent weeks it has been blamed for a series of bombings and shootings in Nigeria's north-east.

Army excesses

The government statement said President Jonathan had appointed seven people, including the ministers of Defence and Labour, to the negotiation committee.

It said the panel's role would be to act "as a liaison between the federal government ... and Boko Haram and to initiate negotiations with the sect".

It would also work with Nigeria's national security adviser to ensure that security forces acted with "professionalism", the statement added.

The governor of the Nigerian state of Borno has admitted that the army has been guilty of excesses during operations to counter Boko Haram.

Most of Boko Haram's recent attacks have been carried out in the Borno city of Maiduguri.

It also claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing of the police headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in June.