(Emir of Kano Ado Bayero (R) welcomes President Goodluck Jonathan during his visit to the northern city of Kano January 22, 2012, following bomb attacks that took place on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan challenged the violent Islamist Boko Haram sect on Thursday to identify themselves and state clearly their demands as a basis for talks, while acknowledging that military confrontation alone will not end their insurgency.

In an interview with Reuters at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja, Jonathan said there was no doubt that Boko Haram had links with other jihadist groups outside Nigeria.

The sect killed more than 500 people last year and more than 250 in the first weeks of 2012 in gun and bomb attacks in Africa’s top oil producer, Human Rights Watch said this week.

Coordinated attacks in the northern city of Kano killed 186 people on Friday in its most deadly strike to date, prompting the president to visit surviving victims.