Boko Haram threatens to 'sell' kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls
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The leader of the Boko Haram Islamist group claimed responsibility for the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria last month and threatened to sell them in a video obtained by AFP on Monday.
"I abducted your girls," the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in the 57-minute video.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful", has been waging a bloody insurgency to establish sharia law in northern Nigeria.
"I have kidnapped a girl in an school with Western education and that bothers you. I say that Western education must end – it must end! The girls must leave and get married," he said. (See video below.)
Shekau also threatened to sell the girls.
"By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace,'' he said in the video, which starts off with Islamist fighters lofting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant "Allahu akbar!'' ("God is great'').
The students, aged between 15 and 18, were seized at gunpoint on April 14 after the insurgents stormed a school in Chibok in the northeastern state of Borno.
Tanko Lawan, Borno state's police commissioner, said on Friday that 223 girls are thought to still be missing, while 53 had escaped.
Unconfirmed reports this week indicated that some of the students have been forced into “marriage” with their extremist abductors, who paid a nominal bride price equivalent to $12.
Other reports said that some of the girls had been taken across the border to Chad or Cameroon.
In his first public comments on the abduction, President Goodluck Jonathan said Monday that authorities still did not know where the girls were but expressed optimism that they would be found.
“We believe that, wherever these girls are, we will get them out,” he said in his televised comments.
Jonathan went on to request “maximum cooperation” from the girls’ parents and guardians, saying that they had not always been forthcoming with police in sharing details of the identities of the missing girls.
Jonathan also said that he had asked for military support from US President Barack Obama to help find the missing girls and was seeking closer cooperation with France, Britain and China on internal security matters.
Activist arrested after meeting first lady
A Nigerian woman who helped lead protests demanding the release of the schoolgirls was briefly arrested on Monday after meeting with Nigeria's First Lady Patience Jonathan, activists said.
The first lady's office has denied reports that she ordered the arrest.
A group called "Bring Back Our Girls" has organised a series of protests around the country and online to demand that the Nigerian government and military do more to rescue the hostages.
Naomi Mutah was part of a group that met with the first lady late on Sunday to discuss the abduction.
Protest organiser Hadiza Bala Usman told AFP that Mutah was arrested at around 3am (2am GMT) at the presidential villa because she had falsely identified herself as a mother of one of the hostages. She was released about 12 hours later.
"She was told that she made a false claim of being a mother of the Chibok girls, whereas she is not," Usman said.
Mutah, who is from Chibok and helped lead protests in Abuja last week, was in fact representing a group of mothers who could not make it to Abuja for the meeting with the first lady, Usman said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)