ABUJA, Nigeria, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The Nigerian government is considering targeting Boko Haram's strategists and financiers as a possible means of stemming rising violence in the country.
In an incident Tuesday, police said Boko Haram members killed two people, including an Islamic cleric, in Nigeria's Borno state.
"The attacks occurred on Monday and the early hours of Tuesday," Borno state police spokesman Gideon Jibrin said. "The police headquarters received the reports from the Biu police area commander indicating that two persons, including an Islamic cleric were killed by unknown gunmen, suspected to be members of the Boko Haram militant Islamic group."
Jibrin said no arrests have been made.
Human Rights Watch said that since Boko Haram began attacks in 2009 about 1,000 Nigerians have been killed by the group.
Oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's leading energy exporter, has a population of 150 million roughly equally divided among Christians, in the south, and Muslims, who primarily inhabit the north of the country.
The government appears to planning a different tack to fight the group, however.
"The focus of the search is gradually shifting from the (Boko Haram) sect's foot soldiers, who merely go on suicide missions to the financiers, intelligence class and those who indoctrinate the bomb-throwers," a "reliable government source" told Nigerian newspaper Vanguard.
"The sect has come to realize that the government is fully aware of what it is doing and that is why they have soft-pedaled. The heat is more than what the sect can take," the report said.
The government's action follows criticism that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's anti-terrorism strategy has ignored the role of financiers of Boko Haram that has killed hundreds of civilians.
Leading Anglican Church Bishop James Oladunjoye warned that if Boko Haram's sponsors weren't brought to justice, the group would continue to pose a serious threat to the government.
"The sponsors of this sect are well known to those in government especially the president," Oladunjoye said in July. "Sponsors of Boko Haram are no longer in government or the corridors of power, which they believe is their birthright. They are those that have been pushed away from controlling the national cake."
Last week, prominent northern Nigerian Muslim leader Junaid Mohammed told Vanguard: "As far as I am concerned, Boko Haram is a terrorist group. It has nothing to do with Islam or Christianity. Let those who are ignorant stop associating it with any religion and face the reality on the ground."
Oodua People's Congress opposition leader Frederick Fasehun said officials have to look at additional possibilities to stop Boko Haram.
"I personally think the Boko Haram affair might go on for some time because we seem to be looking at the wrong direction," Fasehun said.
"Even if you want to dialogue with Boko Haram, you have to dialogue with their sponsors and I personally don't think the sponsors of Boko Haram are local. The sponsors of Boko Haram are probably foreigners and we are not looking at the foreign aspect of the Boko Haram issue.
"That is one fact that people should notice and notice urgently."