Boko Haram offers to swap abducted girls for detained militants

By Rafiu Ajakaye, Monday, May 12, 2014

The militant Boko Haram group has released a new video showing scores of abducted schoolgirls, saying they would be released in return for imprisoned militants.

The militant Boko Haram group has released a new video showing scores of abducted schoolgirls, saying they would be released in return for imprisoned militants.

LAGOS – The militant Boko Haram group has released a new video showing scores of abducted schoolgirls, saying they would be released in return for imprisoned militants.

In a 17-minute video obtained by the local Daily Trust newspaper, Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau said he would free the girls in exchange for arrested group members.

The video – apparently shot in a forest with Shekau clad in his traditional military fatigues and the girls wearing full-length Muslim head coverings – showed the abductees reciting from the Quran.

He bragged that some of the girls – many of whom are said to be Christian – had converted to Islam.

"If you want us to release your girls… you must release our brethren that are held in Borno, in Yobe, in Kano, in Kaduna, in Abuja, in Lagos, up to Enugu," Shekau said, speaking a mixture of Arabic, English and the local Hausa and Kanuri dialects.

"We know that you have incarcerated our brethren all over this country," he added.

"Some of my brethren have spent five complete years without seeing their wives, without seeing their children. For God's sake, even for ensuring their release, will I not kidnap? After all, Allah says I should kidnap," Shekau asserts in the video.

Last month, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in the town of Chibok, located on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest, and loaded scores of schoolgirls onto trucks before driving away unhindered.

Shekau rebuffed global outrage over the abductions, wondering why similar criticism was not meted to Nigerian security forces who, he claimed, had abducted the wives and daughters of suspected insurgents.

"You that seized and detained my brethren for five years, you arrested and kept a woman without getting married for four, five years, you seized and hold our children," Shekau said.

"Those of them that have not accepted Islam, they are now gathered in numbers. They are staying with us. We will never release them until our brethren are released," he added.

He went on to allege that his militants had abducted a number of men and women besides the schoolgirls.

Commenting on the video, the government said that all options are being considered to release the girls.

The "government will continue to explore all options for the release and safe return of our girls back to their homes," Mike Omeri, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), said in a statement.

The statement said that "an earlier report by a section of the media purported to have been issued by Government is totally false."

It is not certain what statement Omeri was referring to, but some media outlets had earlier quoted the government as ruling out a prisoner swap with the Boko Haram group.

However, Interior Minister Abba Moro rejected any deal to swap the girls with detained Boko Haram militants.

"The government is scrutinizing the video to ascertain its veracity with a view to taking appropriate action," Moro told Anadolu Agency.

"At the moment, exchanging members of the Boko Haram sect that have infracted on the laws of the country for the defenseless, innocent schoolgirls that were forcefully abducted from Chibok is not on the table," he added.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language, first emerged in the early 2000s preaching against government misrule and corruption.

The group later became violent, however, after the death of its leader in 2009 while in police custody.

In the five years since, the shadowy sect has been blamed for numerous attacks – on places of worship and government institutions – and thousands of deaths.

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