Boko Haram using Nigeria schoolgirls as `bargaining chips` to seek militants` release

Almost a month after more than 270 girls were kidnapped by the Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Governor of Borno state has said that he has been informed about the missing girls` possible whereabouts.

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: May 12, 2014, 17:00 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Abuja: Nigeria schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram have been converted to Islam and won`t be freed until the government released imprisoned militants, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the militant outfit is heard saying in a fresh video released Monday.

According to the AFP news agency, Boko Haram have released a fresh video of 27 minutes in which its leader Abubakar Shekau is demanding the release of jailed comrades in exchange of the kidnapped girls.

The leader, who had in a previous video, threatened that the girls will be sold in a human market as slaves, now said that they had been converted to Islam.

The video shows over 130 missing schoolgirls clad in full-length hijabs, praying in an unknown location.

Also, the video shows three girls being interviewed, with two of them confirming that they had been converted to Islam from Christianity. The girls, however said that they hadn`t been harmed.

As warned earlier by Boko Haram former negotiator Shehu Sani, the militant outfit is using the abducted girls as "bargaining chips", demanding the release of its militants in exchange.

As the international efforts gathered pace to help Nigerian government with technical and military assistance, ex-negotiator Shehu Sani on Friday warned against the rescue of the abducted school girls and said that the militant group is planning to exchange the hostages with its jailed comrades.

In an earlier video, the same Boko Haram leader had said that the girls were not meant to be in school and it is Allah`s instruction that they must be sold.

There were previous reports that the girls, who were in final year of the boarding school, were forced to marry their abductors at a normal bride rate of $12.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Borno state has said that he has received information about the missing girls` possible whereabouts.

Talking to the BBC, Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima said that there were reports that the missing girls had been sighted and the information had been conveyed to the military for verification.

Earlier reports feared that the girls might have been taken across the border to the neighbouring countries like Chad or Cameroon, but the Governor said he didn`t think so.

It`s been almost a month that the militant group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok province on April 14, however the government has been struggling to find any information about them.

The US, UK, France and now even Israel, have come forward to assist the Nigeria government in searching the girls.

The search for the girls is concentrated in the restive northeast region, where the Boko Haram militants have had their camps and arms cache.

While Britain, the United States and France have already sent specialist teams and technical equipments to help Nigeria`s military in the search, an Israeli counter-terrorism team would arrive in Nigeria today for the same.

Nigerian government has drawn immense flak over its failure in tracing the girls as an Amnesty report last week said that the authorities had been warned beforehand about the possible abduction.

Almost a month after Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 270 girls in Nigeria, the international outrage has been mounting over the heinous abduction by the militant group, with protests being staged across the world.

Condemning the kidnappings in a weekly presidential address, US First Lady Michelle Obama said that she and President Obama saw their own daughters in the abducted girls.

"What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident. It`s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions," she said.

Boko Haram, when translated to English means "Western education is sin". It was designated as a terrorist organisation in November 2013. It has been launchingb increasing number of attacks on schools in northern Nigeria, killing and abducting many innocent students.