Maiduguri: A spokesman for the Boko Haram Islamist group rejected a call by Nigeria`s President for talks and threatened fresh attacks if captured members of its group were not freed.
Goodluck Jonathan`s call for talks was "not sincere", said Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa yesterday, and if captured members of the group were not released, the group would launch attacks like those in Kano.
A series of coordinated bomb attacks and shootings there on January 20 killed at least 185 people.
This latest threat from Boko Haram came hours after the Army said troops had killed 11 members of the Islamist group in a shootout yesterday in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, a stronghold of the group.
Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, spokesman for Joint Task Force (JTF), a special squad set up to crack down on Boko Haram, broke the news of the clash earlier yesterday.
"Today, in an exchange of fire during a cordon-and-search operation conducted by the JTF, 11 Boko Haram members were killed," he said.
Qaqa confirmed the killings, but disputed the Army`s account.
"It is true soldiers killed 11 of our members today in Maiduguri," Qaqa said in a conference call with journalists in Maiduguri.
"They were individually picked in their homes in Shehuri neighbourhood in raids by JTF and shot dead. They were unarmed," he added.
Qaqa dismissed as "not sincere" comments by the President in a media interview this week in which he urged Boko Haram to state its demands and begin dialogue.
"They are making double-speak," he said.
"The same day Goodluck Jonathan came out and said we should come out for dialogue security agents in (the northern state of) Sokoto arrested a large number of our members in raids on their homes."
If the group`s members were not released, he continued, Boko Haram "will launch attacks in Sokoto similar to the big Kano attacks”.
Yesterday`s clash came as part of a crackdown on the group, which already this year has been blamed for more than 200 deaths in a string of bombings and shootings that has tipped Nigeria into a security crisis.
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, has been hit hard by the Boko Haram insurgency, and on December 31 President Goodluck Jonathan placed the city under a state of emergency.