It’s been 202 days since 219 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram.
202 days since militants raided their Chibok boarding school in the middle of the night and packed these girls into the back of open lorries as the buildings around them were burned to the ground.
Just a fortnight ago the Nigerian government raised hopes of their return with claims that a deal had been reached with Boko Haram.
But these hopes have been dashed.
A man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Islamic extremist group, has released a new video obtained by AFP news agency on Friday denying reports of a truce with the government and ruling out any future agreement.
He claims the schoolgirls have converted to Islam and have been ‘married off’, contradicting Nigerian government comments that the girls would soon be freed. Nigeria’s military also said it had killed Shekau a year ago.
“The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long ago married them off,” he said, laughing.
“The over 200 Chibok girls have converted to Islam, which they confess is the best religion. Either their parents accept this and convert too or they can die.”
Shekau also rejected claims of a ceasefire and peace talks.
“Who says we are dialoguing or discussing with anybody? Are you talking to yourselves? We don’t know anybody by the name of Danladi. If we meet him now we will cut off his head,” the man in the video says.
In case you missed our previous reports on this horrifying incident, the name of the group responsible for the mass abduction, Boko Haram, literally means “Western education is forbidden”. This radical Islamist group has targeted educational institutions before. And its leader, Abubakar Shekau, just released a chilling video in which he boastingly takes credit for the abduction and announces that he plans to treat the girls like “slaves”. In the video, obtained by the AFP news agency, he says:
“I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off. There is a market for selling humans… I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine…
Women are slaves. I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam.”
ABC reports that the families of the schoolgirls said they were shocked but not surprised at the recent news.
“It is shocking to us, although we know that Boko Haram is not a reliable group,” said Chibok village elder, Pogo Bitrus.
“We were sceptical about the talks to release our girls and we never took the ceasefire seriously because since the announcement, they have never stopped attacking communities.
“Therefore the information that our girls have been married off is not surprising to us.”
Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor in Chibok whose daughter and niece are among the hostages, said the girls’ families were “lost for words”.
The #BringOurGirls back campaign is ongoing, this is what it looks like so far…
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