Warning over kidnap schoolgirls
Published 12/05/2014 | 12:42
Nigeria's Islamic extremist leader has warned that nearly 300 abducted schoolgirls will not be seen until the government frees his detained fighters.
A new video from Nigeria's home-grown Boko Haram terrorist network purports to show some of the girls and young women, covered in jihab and reciting prayers in Arabic.
It is the first video evidence of them since more than 300 were kidnapped from a north-eastern school in the pre-dawn hours of April 15 - four weeks ago.
Leader Abubakar Shekau cradles an assault rifle in the video received today and says: "I swear to almighty Allah you will not see them again until you release our people that you have captured."
It is not known how many suspected Boko Haram members are detained by security forces.
F amilies have said most girls abducted are Christians but the about 100 shown under a tree in the video recite Muslim prayers in Arabic. Many are barefoot. Some appear fearful, others desolate.
Fifty-three escaped by themselves and 276 are missing, police say.
The mass abductions and failure of Nigeria's government and military to rescue them has aroused national and international outrage. Last week Nigeria belatedly accepted offers of help from the United States, Britain and others.
The video came through channels that have provided previous messages from the Boko Haram leader.
He is shown in military fatigues cradling an assault rifle on the video that is imprinted with the Boko Haram insignia of a Koran resting on two crossed assault rifles and below the black Jihadi flag.
Earlier today, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan agreed to attend a security summit in Paris to focus on the Boko Haram terrorist network, according to a French official.
France is still waiting for confirmation from leaders of the four countries bordering Nigeria - Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger - on whether they will also attend the event on Saturday.
Representatives from Britain, the EU and the United States will also be invited to the event.
French president Francois Hollande had proposed the summit.
In Chibok, the town from where the girls were abducted, parents were hoping to watch the video and identify their daughters, said one of the town's civil leaders, Pogu Bitrus.
"There's an atmosphere of hope, hope that these girls are alive, whether they have been forced to convert to Islam or not," he said.
The video shows about 100 of the girls, indicating they may have been broken up into smaller groups as some reports have indicated, Mr Bitrus said.
He said he had looked at the video and that the surroundings appear very like the Sambisa Forest, some 19 miles from Chibok, into which the girls were first taken.