agence france-presse

agence france-presse

Video of Nigerian schoolgirls ;abductors want prisoner exchange

2mo ago
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Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigeria's Islamist Boko Haram militants, said on Monday he would release more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by his fighters in exchange for prisoners, according to a video seen by Agence France-Presse. The news agency said the 17-minute video shows Shekau proposing the exchange, as well as some of the abducted girls wearing full veils and praying in an undisclosed location. "We don't actually see [Shekau] with the girls, but we do see shots of around 130 girls. They're all dressed in full-length, Islamic dress, wearing black and grey hijabs," freelance journalist Anna Cunningham told CBC News, reporting from Lagos. "They are praying out in the open, under a tree, holding their hands up in prayer and reciting the first chapter of the Islamic holy book Qur'an," she said. "Also, what we see is some interviews with three of the girls. Two of them say they are Christian and that they have converted to Islam. Another girl says she is Muslim." Cunningham said all three profess their Islamic beliefs in the video, but it appears they are under "some duress" as they make the statement while staring at the ground. Boko Haram admitted to kidnapping the girls in another video obtained by AFP on May 6. The group seized them from their boarding school in Chibok, in Nigeria's northern Borno state on April 14. In the first video, Shekau said "western education should end" and he threatened to sell the teens. Fifty-three of the students have escaped, while 276 remain captive. The mass abduction has provoked global expressions of outrage and triggered a support campaign using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Nigeria said on Saturday it had deployed two army divisions to the hunt for the girls while several countries — including the United States, Britain, Israel and France — have offered assistance or sent experts. The Nigerian government has been sharply criticized for its slow response to the abductions, but President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday that international military and intelligence assistance made him optimistic about finding the girls. French President Francois Hollande on Sunday offered to host a summit in Paris next Saturday with Nigeria and its neighbours focused on the militant group. The leaders of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger might also attend and Britain, the European Union and the United States would probably be represented as well, Hollande's aides said. One of the teens who escaped, Godiya Simon, said teachers fled the school on the night of the abductions. Students were sleeping when they heard gunshots in Chibok, she told reporters from the global Arise-TV network. "Those teachers told them, don't run. They told them don't run and one of the teachers locked the gate, and there was no way for them to escape," her father, Waltha, said. Godya said after gunmen entered the dormitory, she and three other girls asked for permission to have a bathroom break and seized the opportunity to flee, Nigeria's Thisday Newspapers Ltd. reported. cbc.ca