Will Nigeria Broker A Deal With Boko Haram?

In a newly released video, Boko Haram suggests it will release the kidnapped girls in exchange for Boko Haram prisoners.
Posted at 3:43 PM, May 12, 2014

It's the position of many governments to never negotiate with terrorists. But will Nigeria, already under immense pressure to find its missing schoolgirls, make an exception?

In this 17-minute-long video released Monday, Boko Haram says it's ready to talk — suggesting it would release all these kidnapped girls if Nigeria hands over all of its Boko Haram prisoners. (Via BBC)

And that's a big "if." By some reports, Nigeria has rejected the offer, but experts say it's possible the government will rely on intermediaries to negotiate with the group. (Via Voice of America / Medina Dauda

Citing unnamed sources, CBS reports Nigerian government's response to the video is twofold — continue search-and-rescue efforts while also trying to arrange dialogue with Boko Haram to secure the girls' release.

Experts have expressed concern any rescue operation could further endanger the girls — and there's a precedent for this.

In 2012, these European hostages were murdered by their jihadist abductors after the Nigerian and British armed forces staged a failed rescue mission. (Via ITN

"We are Boko Haram."


On the other hand, some experts say attempts at negotiating with ​Boko Haram are pointless, arguing the group is far too extreme to engage in any meaningful dialogue. But there's reportedly been at least one successful attempt before. (Via TVC)

Last year, Boko Haram abducted a French family of seven, vacationing in Cameroon near the Nigerian border. The group proposed a similar prisoner swap. (Via Euronews

It was unclear if any of the group's demands were met, but there were reports third parties paid Boko Haram $3 million to turn over the family. And it eventually did. (Via France 24)

If that's any indication, African affairs expert Jacob Zenn tells NBC getting the girls out could cost millions of dollars. “It’s going to mean the release of dozens of Boko Haram murderers, it’s likely going to cost money behind the scenes and Boko Haram will just use that money and deploy any released prisoners to carry out more attacks.”

A former U.N. hostage negotiator told The Daily Beast the key to negotiating with extremist kidnappers is to understand their mindset. "This is not a thing that can be done between governments. … You have to find someone who can get you inside the personal narrative of the people you're dealing with."

Likely complicating that task is no one seems to know where the girls are. It was originally thought Boko Haram was holding them somewhere in Nigeria's dense Sambisa Forest. (Via ENCA)

But it's also possible by now the girls have already been split into separate groups and smuggled into neighboring countries. (Via Fox News

Several nations, including the U.S. and France, have sent in counterterrorism experts and hostage negotiators to advise the Nigerian government.