The United States plans to work with the Nigerian army to help it combat the threat of the Islamist group Boko Haram which is spreading violence in Africa’s largest oil producer, officials have said. But Washington has still not decided whether to put the group on a blacklist of terrorist organizations – even as gunfire and explosions erupted in Maiduguri on Tuesday.
"This is an issue of ongoing internal deliberations within the United States government," AFP news agency quoted Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson as saying after two days of high-level talks with Nigerian officials in the U.S capital.
"The administration was trying to make a decision which is appropriate, rational and useful while taking into account the significance of any decision that we might make on Nigeria and the Nigerian government," he added.
Maiduguri is at the center of Boko Haram’s insurgency, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives since mid-2009.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja in August which killed at least 25 people.
Its deadliest attack yet occurred in January in the northern city of Kano, when coordinated bombings and shootings left at least 185 people dead.
The talks — held as part of the U.S-Nigeria Binational Commission — focused on governance, security cooperation, energy and investment and food security. Opening the talks on Monday, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns said the U.S was "ready to explore a potential partnership with the Nigerian army to build its civil affairs capacity."
"We are all disturbed by the repeated scenes of violence in various parts of Nigeria which threaten to undercut the gains Nigeria has made," he said.
"Violent extremist militants like those associated with Boko Haram offer no practical program to improve the lives on Nigerians. They depend on resentment and neglect," Burns added.
Without providing concrete details of what such a partnership with the Nigerian military could look like, Carson said the U.S experience in other areas of conflict could help in combating the situation in Nigeria.