A purported commander of Boko Haram, the armed Nigerian group, has declared a unilateral ceasefire with the government.
Sheik Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, a man local security sources say is a Boko Haram member, sent a statement to journalists in the city of Maiduguri on Monday, saying the truce was made “following a series of meetings with government officials”.
It said he had “the consent and approval of our leader Abubakar Shekau and I call on all members to stop hostilities”.
It is unclear if Abdulazeez really is speaking on behalf of Shekau or whether he represents a rival faction of the group, which says it is fighting Western influence and wants to impose Islamic law in parts of Nigeria.
Abdulazeez twice made statements last year saying the group was ready for peace talks with the government.
Boko Haram, whose attacks have left hundreds dead since it launched an uprising in 2009 to try to carve an Islamic state out of Nigeria, has continued its attacks unabated.
The latest statement is likely to be greeted with scepticism.
The statement came through the usual channels Boko Haram have used to deliver messages; through the Borno state journalists union. It was signed by Abdulazeez who also called to confirm it, union members said.
Shekau denied claims by the government that behind-the-scenes peace talks were being held in October last year, but he has remained silent since Abdulazeez made contact with press in November.
“We have adopted this measure as a result of the hardship women and children are subjected to, and I urge all members to abide by this directive,” Abdulazeez’s statement said.
“I urge law enforcement agencies to reciprocate this good gesture.”
Northern Nigeria’s conflict has killed around 3,000 people since late 2009, according to Human Rights Watch, the US-based rights group.