ABUJA, Nigeria (BP) — Dozens of girls said to be among those kidnapped in 2014 from a Chibok boarding school are shown in a video Boko Haram released Aug. 14 offering the girls in exchange for the release of imprisoned terrorists.
An armed and masked Boko Haram member speaking on the video said some of the 219 or so Chibok girls still missing after the April 14, 2014 abduction had been killed in airstrikes by the Nigerian military and 40 had been married, but he did not specify the number of girls who remained alive, the Associated Press reported.
The nearly 12-minute video of the girls in hijabs includes an interview with a girl identified by Chibok parents as one of those kidnapped, showed at least one girl holding a baby, and ended with video footage purportedly of Chibok girls injured in airstrikes, although that part of the video was out of focus on Youtube.
“We will show you clips of how some were killed by the military through air strikes. We will also show you clips of some of them who had broken bodies and injuries following the air strikes and air bombing,” the Boko Haram member said, according to an English translation of the video released by SaharaReporters.com news. “These are the remaining girls, we have nothing against them. All that we want is, you should free our brothers. If you don’t set our brothers free, you should know from this moment that you will never get these girls back.”
According to the translation, the video described Boko Haram as still under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, a jihadist whom the Islamic State group claimed to have replaced on Aug. 3 with Abu Musab al-Barnawi.
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, told Channels TV that the latest video signals, in the words of Channels TV, “the beginning of the end of the nightmare in which the girls, their families and all Nigerians have been subjected to since the unfortunate abduction.”
“We are on top of the situation,” Channels TV quoted Mohammed Aug. 14. “But we are being extremely careful because the situation has been compounded by the split in the leadership of Boko Haram. We are also being guided by the need to ensure the safety of the girls. Since this is not the first time we have been contacted over the issue, we want to be doubly sure that those we are in touch with are who they claim to be.”
In the same Channels TV news broadcast, Bring Back Our Girls cofounder Obi Ewezwesili said the video offers hope, but also emphasizes the failure of the Nigerian government to free the captives.
“We see every event that proves that our girls are alive as a renewal of hope,” Ewezwesili said. “But on the [other hand] is the sense of angst that two years and four months after, all we ever get to see are these unrelenting waves of commitment to rescuing them, which then ebbs as soon as the news concerning them goes off the screen. That is not acceptable.”
The international Bring Back Our Girls campaign was launched after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from the government boarding school in the majority Christian town. Nearly 60 of the girls managed to escape from the backs of trucks either during the kidnapping, or shortly afterwards as Boko Haram camped.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared a “technical” defeat of Boko Haram in December 2015, and has pledged to secure the girls’ release, but most remain missing. Boko Haram had established caliphates in towns covering about 20,000 square miles in advance of the March 2015 Nigerian national elections, but a multinational military force managed to recapture the towns.
As recently as April, a video surfaced that Boko Haram gave the Nigerian government in December 2015 as a “proof of life” video showing 15 of the Chibok girls and claiming all of the girls were alive and well. In May, an escaped Chibok girl was rescued in the Sambisa Forest with a baby and an ex-Boko Haram member who claimed to be her husband.
“But all that followed was inertia, and suddenly again we see this video,” Ewezwesili said. “I’m wondering how the government could release this kind of a statement, seeing those girls in that video. I totally cannot believe that this is Nigeria. Two years and four months after young women who went to school were taken away we are still navigating. It is not Nigeria.”
Since launching attacks in 2009 in northeastern Nigeria in attempts to establish strict Sharia law in the entire country, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 25,000 people, many of them Christian, and has displaced at least 2 million.