Some of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic militant group Boko Haram have been paraded on video.
The terror group said many of them had been converted to Islam while being held and all those on the footage are wearing headscarfs.
The group’s leader said that it will release them in exchange for militant prisoners being freed.
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Chilling: The schoolgirls were paraded on video by Boko Haram
Captured: The video shows the girls wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location
Extremist group Boko Haram seized 276 girls who were taking exams at a school in Borno’s north-eastern village of Chibok on April 14
The flamboyant leader of the terror group addresses the camera, offering Nigerian authorities a deal
Abubakar Shekau said that the girls would never be released unless there is an exchange with prisoners
The girls recite Islamic prayers during the clip as they sit in a group in a wooded area
Ordeal: This girl, who was made to speak to the camera, appeared fearful
The Nigerian government has reportedly rejected this offer and has two army divisions hunting for the seized girls.
Some girls on the 17-minute-long video, which was obtained by news agency AFP, spoke to camera, and looked extremely nervous.
The girls recite Islamic prayers during the clip as they sit in a group in a wooded area.
After the girls appear the Boko Haram leader, AbubakarShekau, wearing military fatigues and holding an AK-47, addresses the camera. He appears confident and at one point laughs.
‘All I am saying is that if you want us to release the girls that we have kidnapped, those who have not accepted Islam will be treated as the Prophet (Mohammed) treated infidels and they will stay with us,’ he said, according to a translation of his words originally spoken in a Nigerian language.
‘We will not release them while you detain our brothers,’ he said, before naming a series of cities in Nigeria. It was not clear whether he was in the same location as the girls.
The video came through channels that have provided previous messages from Shekau, who speaks in the video in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.
An unidentified armed man (right) films the captured schoolgirls, possibly being held somewhere in north-eastern Nigeria
Militant: The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, vows to sell the hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped in northern Nigeria for as little as £7 during a video message
The video, which shows around 130 of the girls, was aired after the governor of the Nigerian state from where they were kidnapped said that he knew where some of them are being held.
Kashim Shettima, the Governor of Borno, said that he’d received reports of sightings of the girls and had passed on this information to the military.
Extremist group Boko Haram seized 276 girls who were taking exams at a school in Borno’s north-eastern village of Chibok on April 14. Some managed to escape, but around 200 remain missing.
Mr Shettima told the BBC: ‘We’ve got reports of them being sighted in some locations – which we have conveyed to the relevant military authorities, for them to cross-check, verify and get additional information on the accurate location of the daughters.’
His comments came as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called for negotiations with the terrorist group over the fate of the missing girls.
The Archbishop, who has acted as a hostage negotiator in Nigeria on behalf of the Church in the past, said the girls were at ‘colossal’ risk.
‘They are in the hands of a very disparate group which is extremely irrational and difficult to deal with – and utterly merciless,’ he told BBC Radio Four’s The World This Weekend programme.
A map showing the recent Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria over the past month
Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima said that he’d received reports of sightings of schoolgirls kidnapped by extremist group Boko Haram
The Archbishop said he had negotiated in the past with a predecessor group of Boko Haram and suggested it might be ‘possible’ to strike a deal – although he warned it was ‘questionable’ who was in charge of the group.
Who are Boko Haram? Insight into the Nigerian terror group
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf – but it didn’t gain worldwide notoriety until it began a violent insurgency in earnest in 2009.
Ultimately, the group wants Nigeria to become an Islamic state.
Since mid-2009 it has killed thousands and has destabilised swathes of the northeast of Nigeria, as well as neighbours Cameroon and Niger.
Its name means ‘Western education is forbidden’ – and it’s the country’s school system that in the main fuels its anger.
Security forces view the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, just outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja, on December 25, 2011 – which Boko Haram claimed responsibility for
But the group has murdered people –including Muslims – for merely speaking out against it.
Yusuf established an Islamic school and mosque, which proved popular with many poor Muslim families.
He was killed by Nigerian security forces in 2009, but rather than weaken the group, it re-emerged with increased ferocity under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau.
It has bombed churches, barracks and even the UN headquarters and ruthlessly gunned down those who criticise it, typically using gunmen on the back of motorbikes.
President Goodluck Jonathan became so alarmed at the chaos the group was spreading that in 2013 he declared a state of emergency in the areas where it was most active – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
The Nigerian military has been fairly ineffective against the heavily armed group.
A lack of investment in training, failure to maintain equipment and dwindling cooperation with Western forces has damaged Nigeria’s armed services, while in Boko Haram they face an increasingly well-armed, determined foe.
Ruthless: Abubakar Shekau (centre) took over leadership of Boko Haram in 2009 – and the group’s campaign then became even more ferocious
The militants know the military’s limitations. A police source said a fighter jet flew over the market town of Gamburu last Monday as a group of gunmen killed at least 125, but the killers didn’t flinch, knowing they could not be targeted while scattered in a densely populated area.
‘In a typical unit, Boko Haram has between 300 and 500 fighters. It’s not a guerrilla force that you can fight half heartedly,’ said Jacob Zenn, a Boko Haram expert at U.S. counter-terrorism institution CTC Sentinel. ‘It’s snowballing. It’s getting more weapons, more recruits, their power is increasing every day.’
On February 12 dozens of fighters loyal to Boko Haram attacked a remote military outpost in the Gwoza hills.
A security source with knowledge of the assault said they came in Hilux tracks with mounted machine guns and showered the camp with gunfire.
Boko Haram’s fighters had little cover and were easily picked off – 50 of them died against nine Nigerian troops – but they still managed to make off with the base’s entire armoury stockpile of 200 mortar bombs, 50 rocket-propelled grenades and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, the source said.
Their ability to dart over the border into Cameroon, whose own security forces have shown little appetite for taking them on, gives the militants an added advantage.
Ethnic and religious divisions within the military have also bred some collusion with Boko Haram, sources say.
Can a hashtag offer any help to abducted girls?
Parents of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are hoping for a miracle. So far, all they have is a hashtag.
More than three weeks after Islamic extremists abducted the girls, world outrage is galvanizing Twitter and other social-media networks. But observers question whether the burst of online interest will last and whether it can ever elevate the case from a trending topic to a mandate for action.
‘People are finally taking it seriously,’ said Fayokemi Ogunmola a Nigerian-born sophomore at the University of Rochester who leads her campus Pan-African Students Association. Ongumola had followed the story since it broke April 15 but only recently saw more interest among classmates using the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag and wearing head wraps or the green and white of the Nigerian flag.
Support: David Cameron and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour with the Twitter campaign’s hashtag
Michelle Obama shared this photo of herself along with the caption ‘Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families’
‘It’s a nice thing to use social media to get it out. This is a step in the right direction,’ Ogunmola said. ‘But the point is to actually find the girls.’
Though details of the abductions have been public since they were carried out, the case was not widely followed until #BringBackOurGirls and other hashtags attracted a torrent of attention.
More than 2.1million tweets using #BringBackOurGirls have been posted, according to Topsy, a site that offers Twitter analytics. Interest was relatively low until last week, when celebrities including singer Chris Brown sent messages that were widely circulated.
Hilary Clinton was among those who tweeted in support of the campaign, which encourages military intervention to recover the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram rebels on April 14
Amy Poehler (right) and Malala Yousafzai (left) tweeted their support for the Bring Back Our Girls campaign
More than 380,000 tweets carried the hashtag on Wednesday, including one from Michelle Obama, who has been retweeted more than 53,000 times.
The flurry of attention on Nigeria brings to mind a similar campaign two years ago that introduced many people to Joseph Kony, a guerrilla leader whose group has abducted many Ugandan children who then became sex slaves or fighters. A video about Kony went viral in 2012, but public attention waned, and the warlord remains at large.
G. Nelson Bass III, a professor who teaches politics and international relations at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said the #BringBackOurGirls campaign appears far closer to the Kony campaign than to the kind of social media activity that organized much of the Arab Spring movement.
In the former case, public awareness widened but never resulted in any particular action, unlike in the Middle East, where social media were used to coordinate protests.
Piers Morgan’s tweet about Boko Haram, in which he described the kidnapping of the schoolgirls as ‘disgusting’
‘At its current moment, I fear this campaign lacks the information to do much more than educate,’ he said.
The acclaimed Nigerian-American author Teju Cole, writing for The New Yorker, called the abductions Twitter’s ‘cause of the day.’ Writing on Twitter, he suggested the hashtag campaign was accomplishing little, saying: ‘For four years, Nigerians have tried to understand these homicidal monsters. Your new interest (thanks) simplifies nothing, solves nothing.’
Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group responsible for the kidnappings, did not enter Google’s top search terms until last Monday.
Gordon Coonfield, a Villanova University professor who studies new media, said the story of the Nigerian girls is following a familiar arc, in which interest is ignited and then quickly dissipates.
The drama presents an opportunity to the masses to casually adopt the hashtag as their cause: ‘People can care so fiercely at this moment only on the condition that they can completely forget about it tomorrow,’ he said.
‘Social media won’t find them,’ he said, but it could fuel broader discussions on injustice and what led to the kidnappings. ‘This will happen only if we can sustain a network of attention longer than 140 characters.’
Nigerians attacked by militants fleeing the country as they cannot trust the army to protect them
Brutalized residents of a border town repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram, who last week killed more than 300 people, say they are moving across the border to Cameroon because they cannot trust Nigeria’s government and military to protect them.
Gamboru has been targeted by the group in four attacks in the past year. But the fury and destruction wrought by last Monday’s attack was unprecedented: more than 1,000 shops, dozens of homes and 314 trucks and cars bombed and burned out, said the chairman of the local Gamboru-Ngala government, Bukar Mustapha.
Bodies still are being found a week later amid the mangled tin roofs that are all that remain of the marketplace and in the surrounding bush where people tried to flee the killers, he told visiting Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima on Sunday.
Women sit at Gamboru central market in northeastern Nigeria on Monday, burnt by suspected Boko Haram insurgents during the May 5 attack
The extremists also bombed the only bridge linking northeastern Borno to neighboring Chad and Cameroon, leaving a mess of concrete and twisted girders that now allows only light traffic. Lines of trucks ferrying goods are stuck on either side of the bridge.
Residents said they warned the military beforehand that they saw suspicious camps in nearby scrubland and suspected fighters of the Boko Haram terrorist network were preparing to attack. They suggested some soldiers are colluding with the extremists – not the first time such allegations have been made.
‘We have more reasons now to believe a possible conspiracy may not be ruled out in the last attack, because the troops earlier stationed in the town were withdrawn a few hours before the gunmen laid siege,’ a spokesman for the residents, Modu Bulama told an Associated Press reporter.
Bulama said the departing soldiers said they were being re-deployed along roads leading to Lake Chad to search for the 276 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram – but he did not believe that.
National and international outrage at the Nigerian government and military’s failure to rescue the girls abducted four weeks ago forced President Goodluck Jonathan to accept offers of help from the United States, Britain, France and China. On Sunday, he accepted an offer from Israel to send a team of counter-terrorist experts.
A soldier and other government officials inspect the bridge that was bombed by Boko Haram in Gambaru
Jonathan said on Sunday he was ‘very optimistic’ that the girls will be rescued with the international help.
But experts warn it will be difficult since the area they are in is vast. Reports last week indicated some had been forced to marry their abductors and others may have been carried across borders into Chad and Cameroon.
In Gamboru, Governor Shettima tried to reassure residents with promises that victims would get financial help and that his government would rebuild the market and compensate traders for burned goods.
The fury and destruction wrought by last Monday’s attack was unprecedented, with more than 1,000 shops, dozens of homes and 314 trucks and cars bombed and burned out in Gamboru
‘We, the entire community, have long concluded arrangements to leave Nigeria for Cameroon, where we believe our lives may be well protected and safe’, said trader Zannah Yerima. He said three of his brothers were killed in last week’s attack.
Resident spokesman Bulama said: ‘The latest incident proved that the federal government and its security forces have failed to protect our lives and properties. Now that the level of killings and destruction inflicted on us reached its peak, the only alternative for us is to take our entire families and seek permanent refuge in Cameroon.’
Thousands have been killed in the five-year-old Islamic uprising.