Nigeria journalist threatened amid sect violence
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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 11:10
Lagos: A journalist in Nigeria said on Wednesday he's been threatened and followed in recent days after being mentioned as a possible intermediary in potential peace talks with a radical Islamist sect.

Freelance journalist Ahmad Salkida said he fears he will be targeted over his previous articles and contacts with Boko Haram, a sect waging an increasingly bloody conflict with Nigeria's weak central government.

His fears come as another man mentioned as a possible go-between for indirect talks has said he's pulled out over details of the negotiations being published by local newspapers.

Salkida has covered the Boko Haram movement since 2006, including the sect's violent rioting and a later security crackdown in 2009 that saw 700 people killed. Security forces detained Salkida for six days after the rioting, later releasing him without charges.

In recent days, he said he's noticed being followed while he drives. He also said he received threatening telephone calls, including one in which a man told him that "me and Boko Haram are not supposed to exist."

Salkida said he believes the threats come from Nigeria's security agencies, which have suffered numerous casualties in recent Boko Haram attacks and remain angry about the killings.

The sect is blamed for killing more than 360 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. Those killed include Christian and Muslims, as well as police officers and soldiers.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, has said it is concerned about Salkida's safety.

"Nigerian authorities must take these threats seriously and we hold the government responsible for Salkida's well-being," Mohamed Keita, the committee's Africa Advocacy Coordinator, said in a statement yesterday.

Nigeria came out of a long period of military rule in 1999 and has an unbridled free press, but journalists are often harassed by police and the State Security Service, the nation's secret police. Local journalists also have been attacked and killed in the oil-rich nation over their reporting in the past. This year alone, two journalists in Nigeria were killed.

In Salkida's case, however, the threats he faces likely are a result of the government's push to find intermediaries to possibly start indirect talks with Boko Haram.

Nigeria has reached out before, but to individuals who exaggerated their influence with a group whose command-and-control structure remains a mystery as it has splintered.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 11:04

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