Islamist terrorists from the Boko Haram group have demanded that Nigerian security forces release its fighters jailed by the government in exchange for the release of the girls the terrorist group kidnapped from a private school on April 14.
Speaking in a video recorded by the militant group, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said: “I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured.”
In June 2013, the U.S. State Department offered a standing reward of $7 million for information leading to Shekau’s capture through its Rewards for Justice program. The Nigerian army has offered a $50 million Nigerian naira (approximately US$300,000) for his capture.
About 100 girls, out of an estimated 276 still held by the terrorists, were shown in the video. Fifty-three managed to escape from their captors.
Speaking to reporters at a May 12 press conference, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked if the United States had verified the video and if it gave any clues that could help find the girls. Carney replied:
We have seen the video … and we have no reason to question its authenticity. Our intelligence experts are combing over every detail of it for clues that might help in the ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls. As you know, President Obama has directed his team to do everything it can to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find and free these girls…. Our interdisciplinary team with representatives from the State Department, the Department of Defense, the FBI and others is up and running now at our embassy in Nigeria, helping to support the Nigerian government by providing military and law enforcement assistance as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support.
BBC reported a qualification to Shekau’s demands ignored by most of the media: “that captured girls who had not converted to Islam could be swapped for jailed fighters.” (Emphasis added.) Though exact figures are not available, reports indicate that the Chibok school from which the girls were abducted, which educated both Christian and Muslim students, had a predominately Christian student body. The village of Chibok is, itself, primarily Christian.
Shekau claimed that the girls shown in the video have been converted to Islam, saying: “These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with … we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims,”
One girl singled out for questioning was asked: “Why have you become a Muslim?”
“The reason why I became a Muslim is because the path we are on is not the right path,” the girl answered. “We should enter the right path so that Allah will be happy with us,” continued the girl. She said her name had been changed to Halima because she had converted from Christianity to Islam.
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