Boko Haram has released a video allegedly showing the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped two years ago, showing some who are still alive and claiming others died in air strikes.
The armed group, which has attacked both Muslims and Christians, seized 276 students from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok on the night of April 14, 2014. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the immediate aftermath.
“They should know that their children are still in our hands,” says a man whose face was covered by a turban in the video posted on YouTube on Sunday.
Al Jazeera‘s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Lagos, said the man in the video claimed to be the successor to Abubakar Shekau and called on the Nigerian government to release the groups’ fighters from prisons.
Earlier this month, Isil named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as Boko Haram’s new leader, replacing Shekau, whose seven-year rule killed more than 20 000 people and drove more than 2.2-million from their homes.
“The speaker said military air strikes had killed many of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, and he asked the parents of these girls to press the government to release the groups’ fighters from prisons across Nigeria,” the correspondent said.
“The speaker also said that 40 of the schoolgirls were married [to Boko Haram fighters], some were killed by airstrikes and there were several injuries. He also used the video opportunity to assure his comrades in prison and urged them to be resilient and assured them they would be soon be freed,” the correspondent added.
The kidnapping of the girls is a political issue in Nigeria, with the government and military criticised for their handling of the incident and failure to track down the girls.
About 2 000 girls and boys have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014, with many used as sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers, according to Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organisation.
Boko Haram has been waging a campaign against the Nigerian government for several years, battling what it calls Western influence. In recent months, it has increasingly used suicide and bomb attacks as the Nigerian military pushes the group out of territories they once controlled.
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared Boko Haram “technically defeated”, and said success in the campaign would be measured on the return of the Chibok girls and other abductees. – News24