A spokesman for radical Islamist militia Boko Haram said it is ready to hold peace talks with Nigerian authorities if the government releases members held prisoner.

The spokesman, known only as Abul Qaqa, said in a telephone hookup on state television Friday night that the deal would have to include talks over the freedom of its members held since 2009, when the group began its insurgency.

Analysts said there are factions emerging within Boko Haram, some more radical than others.

Several unknown men claiming to be leaders of the shadowy group have made contradictory statements in recent days, some pushing for talks while others spoke vehemently against negotiations.

The latest statement came on the heels of the re-arrest of Kabiru Sokoto, the alleged mastermind of a Christmas Day bombing of a church outside the capital Abuja that killed 43 people.

Sokoto escaped from police custody last month in an embarrassment for the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, but was recaptured this week in Taraba State along the Nigeria-Chad border.

Security sources told dpa that hundreds of the sect’s members are detained in various prisons across northern Nigeria.

Previous peace talks failed after Boko Haram pulled out following the extrajudicial killing of its leader Mohammed Yusuf in 2009.

The group later began to engage in wide-scale attacks on police and government offices, though in recent months civilians have increasingly been targeted, with hundreds of people killed.

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