New Delhi: Even as Boko Haram looks to rise again in Nigeria, the country's President, Muhammadu Buhari, said that the terrorist group is on the retreat.
"They are on the retreat. If you go to the front, you will find out that they no longer occupy the areas in the North East they once did," President Buhari said in an exclusive interview with NDTV.
This, in spite of over 1200 killings by the group since Mr Buhari's government came to power in May.
At the same time, he said, the war in Libya is pushing Islamic State fighters into Nigeria, filling the ranks of Boko Haram.
"A lot of trained people have returned to their bases in Nigeria and are finding their way back to strengthen Boko Haram," the President said in Delhi, where the India-Africa Summit concluded on Thursday.
Mr Buhari said that the Nigerian government wants to negotiate with Boko Haram to secure the return of close to 300 schoolgirls abducted over a year ago from a village called Chibok in North East Nigeria, but that there is no credible leadership of the group that they can open talks with. "We want to get them back safe to parents. But we are not sure of a credible leadership that is prepared to talk yet about Chibok girls," he said.
The Nigerian government has recently expressed a willingness to have negotiations with the Boko Haram, in spite of the claim that it is militarily on the back foot. President Buhari said he is "prepared to discuss anything" with the group to rescue the girls, because "we want them back safe. If they are desperate, if they can blow people up in churches and mosques, they can even kill them."
In March this year, the Boko Haram officially became an affiliate of the Islamic State, who they had started to court in July 2014. Islamic State flags and chants have appeared in subsequent propaganda videos, an attempt, as President Buhari believes, at "psychological warfare to show that they are not alone, and have the participation of a more resourceful group."