By Marianne Barriaux
President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigerian authorities are talking to Boko Haram prisoners in their custody and could offer them amnesty if the extremist group hands over more than 200 schoolgirls abducted last year.
The Nigerian leader told AFP on Wednesday (local time) he was confident "conventional" attacks by the group would be rooted out by November, but cautioned that deadly suicide attacks, some of them waged by children, were likely to continue.
"The few (prisoners) we are holding, we are trying to see whether we can negotiate with them for the release of the Chibok girls," Buhari said in an interview in Paris during a three-day visit to France.
"If the Boko Haram leadership eventually agrees to turn over the Chibok girls to us - the complete number - then we may decide to give them (the prisoners) amnesty."
Boko Haram fighters stormed a school in the remote northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok on April 14 last year, seizing 276 girls who were preparing for end-of-year exams in an abduction that shocked the world.
Fifty-seven escaped, but nothing has been heard of the 219 others since May last year, when about 100 of them appeared in a Boko Haram video, dressed in Muslim attire and reciting the Koran.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has since said they have all converted to Islam and been "married off".
Buhari said the government would not release any prisoners unless it was convinced it could "get the girls in reasonably healthy condition", but cautioned that negotiating with Boko Haram militants was fraught with difficulties.
"We are trying to establish if they are bona fide, how useful they are in Boko Haram, have they reached a position of leadership where their absence is of relevance to the operation of Boko Haram?" he said.