NAIROBI, Kenya – Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari said Sunday the military wounded the leader of Boko Haram, his country's homegrown Islamic extremist group.
Nigeria's military said last week it had "fatally wounded" Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in an airstrike, but it stopped short of saying that he was dead.
Boko Haram no longer holds any Nigerian territory and the group has split into small groups attacking soft targets, said Buhari on Sunday, speaking on the sidelines of the Tokyo International Conference of Africa's Development in Kenya.
The Nigerian government is ready to discuss the release of the Chibok girls held hostage by Boko Haram, Buhari said in a statement from his spokesman. Chibok, in northeastern Nigeria, is where nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted from a school in April 2014. Dozens of the kidnapped girls escaped, but 218 remain missing.
The government is ready to negotiate with "bona fide leaders" of the terror group who know where the girls are, Buhari said.
"If they do not want to talk to us directly, let them pick an internationally recognized non-governmental organization," he said. "We want those girls out and safe. The faster we can recover them and hand them over to their parents, the better for us."
Boko Haram appears to be fractured by a leadership struggle after the Islamic State group recently announced a new leader for the Nigerian based group. But Shekau has insisted he is still in charge. He had pledged the group's allegiance to the Islamic State group last year, giving IS its first franchise in sub-Saharan Africa.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden," resurfaced as a deadly force under Shekau, who took over in 2009 after a military raid on the group's compound in Maiduguri killed some 700 people and leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed in police custody.