Only four missing schoolgirls identified in Boko Haram video
Fraught relatives of almost 300 schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria have identified only four of the young women in a propaganda video published by their captors.
The recording, released by Boko Haram on Monday, showed more than 100 young women in black and grey veils chanting verses from the Koran. The Islamic extremist group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, said they were the schoolgirls captured from Chibok in the north-east of the country last month and that they had been "liberated" and converted to Islam.
However, a community leader from Chibok, whose younger sister is among the missing, said that despite successive screenings of the video to parents and classmates since Monday, only four girls had been identified as being among the 276 who were seized from their boarding school.
Allen Manasseh said: "They started bringing parents to see the video yesterday. We had to have a good look at it together with parents and classmates and only a few of the girls were identified as the students of the school. So far only four are identified without any doubt".
A committee has been set up to move around the area and hold identification sessions with parents, but so far the majority have not recognised their daughters. Because Boko Haram was already seizing young women before the latest mass capture, Dr Manasseh believes many of those in the video may not be from Chibok at all.
"It is a cause for concern," he added. "It might be a few of the Chibok girls together with other girls, because these people have been kidnapping girls in a lot of communities."
Dr Manasseh, who is chairman of the board of trustees of the Pan Chibok Youth Association, said that some of the parents were distraught at not seeing their daughters in the video.
He is among those who were disappointed not to find a relative in the footage. "My younger sister Maryamu Wavi (is among those missing). I could not identify her among those girls. I still hope that she'll be found and will come back."
The Nigerian government said yesterday that it was still open to talks with Boko Haram after the militant group said girls could be released in exchange for Boko Haram prisoners. Tanimu Turaki, the Minister of Special Duties, said: "The window of negotiation is still open. The government had set up a committee to negotiate".
A vigil will be held this evening in the capital, Abuja, to mark 30 days since the first girls disappeared, with a parallel event planned in Washington DC. Rotimi Olawale, the media co-ordinator of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, said that international intervention was bringing fresh hope.
"Based on the evidence, it is obvious the government did not respond in good time or provide good support for the families. In the past few weeks, that (has begun) to change," he said.
US spy aircraft flew over remote parts of north-east Nigeria yesterday as efforts to find the girls were stepped up. Thousands of Nigerian troops have already been sent to the region while Britain, the US and France and have sent teams to help with the search on the ground.
In further evidence of the impact of Boko Haram's terrorising of the north-east of the country, President Goodluck Jonathan asked parliament yesterday for a six-month extension of a state of emergency in three states in the region because of persistent attacks. (© Independent News Service)