Abducted Nigerian schoolgirls ‘shown in new video’
A new video released today appears to be the first sighting of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls since they were abducted by Boko Haram three weeks ago.
The video shows about 130 girls in Muslim headscarves and reciting the Koran.
It also shows Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau suggesting the group might be prepared to release the girls in exchange for imprisoned members of the militant group.
It has not been confirmed when the video was made – but it seems to have been filmed in a rural area.
About 300 girls were kidnapped from their school at Chibok in Borno state on April 14. Police say 276 of the students – who are mainly Christian – are still missing.
United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown said: “There will be worldwide condemnation of a new video showing Boko Haram are cruelly and barbarically using 200 kidnapped girls to bargain for the release of prisoners, and exploiting innocent young girls for political purposes.
''It is urgent that all religious leaders in every part of the world speak out against their perverted and twisted version of Islam which involves forced conversions and the sale of girls as sex slaves.
“Meeting the Nigerian president on Abuja on Friday I was able to inform him of offers of military help now available from four countries.
“Countries around the world are also supporting the Safe Schools Initiative which has been launched to protect other schoolgirls from abduction and kidnap.”
It is clear that any negotations would face huge challenges. One parent of the abducted girls has already been reported as opposing any deal swapping the girls, saying that “they'll do it again”.
However, after three weeks without any updates on their welfare or location, this news gives the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls renewed hope.
Meanwhile, momentum among the international community to address the crisis and the continued risks of attacks on education in north-east Nigeria continues to build.
Several nations including the United States, Britain, Israel and France have offered help or sent experts to Nigeria.
And the Safe Schools Initiative will start in more than 500 schools in northern Nigeria. It was launched with a $10 million starting donation, pledged by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders working with Mr Brown, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan then pledged a further $10 million from his government for the scheme.