Lagos: Nigeria`s Islamic extremist leader threatened in a videotaped statement seen on Monday to sell the more than 200 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school in the remote northeast of the country three weeks ago.
Abubakar Shekau for the first time also claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction, in a video reviewed by The Associated Press.
"I abducted your girls," said the leader of Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful.
"By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace," he said in the hour-long video that starts with fighters lofting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great."
It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors, who paid a nominal bride price of USD 12, and that others have been carried into neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Those reports could not be verified.
An intermediary who has said Boko Haram is ready to negotiate ransoms for the girls also said two of the girls have died of snakebite and about 20 are ill.
He said Christians among the girls have been forced to convert to Islam. The man, an Islamic scholar, spoke on condition of anonymity because his position is sensitive.
Nigeria`s police have said more than 300 girls were abducted. Of that number, 276 remain in captivity and 53 escaped.
The mass abduction and the military`s failure to rescue the girls and young women has roused national outrage with protests in major cities. Protesters accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being insensitive to the girl`s plight.
First lady Patience Jonathan fueled anger Monday when a leader of a protest march said she ordered the arrests of two protest leaders, expressed doubts there was any kidnapping and accused the protest leaders of belonging to Boko Haram.