Kano - The leader of Nigeria's radical Islamist group Boko
Haram has rejected the idea of any potential amnesty deal, which the country's
presidency said it would study in a bid to curb a bloody insurgency, in a
statement obtained by AFP on Thursday.
Abubakar Shekau, the purported head of Boko Haram who has
been designated a global terrorist by the United States, claimed his group had
"not committed any wrong to deserve amnesty".
"Surprisingly, the Nigerian government is talking about
granting us amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that
should grant you pardon," he said, listing what he described as the
state's "atrocities" against Muslims.
The Hausa language audio recording was distributed by email
in a manner consistent with previous Boko Haram messages, and the voice was
similar to that of previous Shekau statements.
President Goodluck Jonathan last week formed a panel to look
at the possibility of offering an amnesty deal to the Islamists, whose
insurgency has left more than 3 000 people dead since 2009, including killings
by the security services.
Jonathan has come under intense pressure over the issue,
with politicians from the country's violence-torn north as well as Nigeria's
highest Muslim spiritual figure, the Sultan of Sokoto, calling for amnesty.
The panel, reportedly to be composed of national security
officials, northern leaders and others, is due to report later this month.
The move has been widely debated in Nigerian media in recent
Boko Haram has claimed to be fighting for an Islamic state
in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer.
The group also claimed the February 19 kidnapping of a
French family of seven over the border in Cameroon. Their whereabouts remain
Boko Haram's demands however have repeatedly shifted and the
group is believed to include various factions in addition to imitators.
Nigeria offered an amnesty to militants in the southern
oil-producing Niger Delta region in 2009, which has been credited with greatly
reducing unrest there, though oil theft has since flourished.
Violence blamed on Boko Haram has been concentrated in the
mostly Muslim north.
Christian and Muslim civilians, the security services and
other symbols of authority have been among the group's victims.