Boko Haram Sends ‘Proof of Life’ Video of Chibok Girls to CNN
Boko Haram has sent a “proof of life” video, which shows 15 of the more than 200 girls abducted by the Islamist fighters from the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok two years ago, CNN reported.
Screen grab of the Chibok girls’ new video monitored in Kano showed the girls wearing black hijabs in an unspecified location, stating their names, saying that they were taken from Chibok and the date of the recording – December 25, 2015, the broadcaster said.
Two of the three mothers of the 219 schoolgirls still missing, since the mass abduction on April 14, 2014, recognised their daughters on the video, but another broke down as her daughter was not seen in the video. The three women, however, identified all the girls, including a classmate, who was at home on the day of the kidnapping.
The video is the first (concrete?) indication that at least some of the girls are still alive since a previous video was released publicly by Boko Haram in May 2014. At that time, about 100 of the teenagers were shown in Islamic dress reciting passages from the Qur’an after Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, said they had converted them to Islam.
Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, told CNN that the girls in the video appeared “under no stress whatsoever,” and there had been “little transformation in their physical appearance.” But he declined to comment directly on the state of talks with Boko Haram, which has previously said it would release the girls only in exchange for captured fighters in Nigerian prisons.
“There are ongoing talks. We cannot ignore leads but, of course, many of these investigations cannot be disclosed openly because it could also endanger the negotiations,” the minister added. On Prisoner swap, AFP understands from a go-between that in mid-January this year, members of Boko Haram made contact with the government requesting talks about a possible prisoner swap.
The militants then sent five still photographs of some of the girls, also wearing black hijabs, who were identified by some parents as being among those kidnapped from Chibok. The government then requested more concrete proof in the form of a video, which was then sent.
Parents of the 219 girls were on Thursday set to hold a prayer vigil at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok to mark the second anniversary of the kidnapping. Boko Haram seized 276 from their dormitories but 57 managed to escaped in the hours that followed. Amnesty International’s Nigeria director, M.K. Ibrahim, called for the release of all captives and said the Chibok girls symbolised “all the civilians whose lives have been devastated by Boko Haram.” (President) Muhammadu Buhari’s government should do all it can lawfully to bring an end to the agony of the parents of the Chibok girls and all those abducted,” he added.
Two-year anniversary, Nnamdi Obasi and Ayo Obe, of the International Crisis Group, described the anniversary as an opportunity to address the conflict’s effect on children as more areas are freed from Boko Haram’s control. “The currently haphazard approach to the rehabilitation of rescued captives has left most of them psychologically, socially and culturally vulnerable,” they added, in an article published on blog.crisisgroup.org.
Human Rights Watch said this week that some 952,000 of the 2.6 million people displaced by the violence were children, who had been “robbed” of their right to education by attacks on schools. UNICEF said separately there had been a sharp rise in the use of abducted children as human bombs. Three-quarters of the child bombers in attacks from January 2014 to February 2016 were girls.
Elsewhere in Nigeria, protest marches were planned as the culmination of a week-long series of events organised by the #BringBackOurGirls movement to renew calls for the girls’ release. The Chibok girls are the most high-profile victims of the brutal insurgency, which has seen Boko Haram repeatedly use kidnapping as a weapon in a war that has killed some 20,000 people since 2009.
Human rights groups estimate that several thousand women and young girls have been seized since the start of the insurgency, and forced to become sex slaves and suicide bombers.