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Boko Haram releases new video of abducted schoolgirls

The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014 provoked global outrage.

BOKO HARAM HAS released a new video purportedly showing some of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the jihadist group from Chibok more than two years ago.

The film was issued just days after embattled Boko Haram head Abubakar Shekau denied claims that he had been replaced as the leader of the Nigeria-based group.

The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014 provoked global outrage and brought unprecedented attention to Boko Haram and its bloody quest to create a fundamentalist state in northeastern Nigeria.

A man whose face was covered by a turban in the video called on the Nigerian government to release Boko Haram prisoners in exchange for the girls.

“They should know that their children are still in our hands,” he said in the film posted on YouTube.

Missing girls 

While President Muhammadu Buhari has said the group is “technically defeated”, his government has struggled to find the girls, an enduring political embarrassment that highlights Boko Haram’s continued presence in the region.

6564d6ebcb5d313485f9c7da19bcceedc6bc82d471248d87126cb4b0ff35cfc0_3764492 Boko Haram video purportedly showing some of the schoolgirls captured in Chibok

The video was attributed to the original Boko Haram name, not the new Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), suggesting it was released by Shekau’s faction, although it is not known when it was filmed.

“There are a number of the girls, about 40 of them, that have been married,” said the man in the 11-minute video, which shows girls with veils sitting on the ground and standing in the background.

“Some of them have died as a result of aerial bombardment.”

A girl speaking in the Chibok dialect chokes back tears as she describes an aerial attack by Nigerian armed forces.

Visibly distressed

In the background, several girls look visibly distressed and dab their eyes as she recounts the raids. One is holding a small baby.

“They should immediately release our brethren in their custody,” the man said, threatening that if the prisoners are not released that the Nigerian government will never be able to rescue the girls.

In the hours that followed the April 2014 mass kidnap, dozens of girls managed to escape.

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Image taken from video released in 2014. Source: AP

Of the 219 still missing, just one was found, Amina Ali, in May this year near the Sambisa Forest area of Borno, a known Boko Haram hideout.

Over the past year, the Nigerian military announced the rescue of hundreds of people, most of them women and children, who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram.

But the missing Chibok schoolgirls were not among them, despite several unconfirmed sightings.

Bring Back Our Girls campaign

Abubakar Abdullahi, a spokesman for the Bring Back Our Girls movement, told AFP he had seen the video and that one of the girls has been identified.

“One of our members has recognised a girl. We are still in the process of confirming a few of the girls,” Abdullahi said from Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

Abdullahi said it was “heartbreaking” to see the video.

“We’ve always believed they will be back, but it’s also painful,” he said, criticising the Nigerian government for being unable to rescue the girls.

“The frustration will always be there. We failed them on so many instances,” Abdullahi said.

“It’s unbelievable that this can happen, that we haven’t been able to make progress after 853 days.”

The Nigerian government said today it is in contact with those claiming to be behind a new Boko Haram video.

Government contact

Information Minister Lai Mohammed said in a statement that the government is talking with “those purportedly behind the video”.

“We are being extremely careful because the situation has been compounded by the split in the leadership of Boko Haram,” Mohammed said.

He was referring to a leadership dispute between Abubakar Shekau, who claims he is still in charge, and apparent new chief Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who is backed by the Islamic State group (IS).

“Since this is not the first time we have been contacted over the issue, we want to be doubly sure that those we are in touch with are who they claim to be,” Mohammed said.

When a similar video was released in April, the Nigerian government also responded with caution.

Boko Haram has long been known to be splintered, with various factions of ideologically sympathetic fighters who do not always act under the direct orders of senior commanders.

- © AFP, 2016

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