Yesterday, Boko Haram released a second video connected to the mass kidnapping conducted by the group in northern Nigeria’s Borno state. On April 14, Boko Haram militants stormed a government school in the middle of the night and kidnapped over 200 girls between the ages of 15 and 18, taking them into the Sambisa forest, where the group has fortified camps.
Nearly three weeks after the kidnapping, Boko Haram released a video in which group leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and threatened to sell the girls. The video showed little besides Shekau standing in front of an armored personnel carrier flanked by masked Boko Haram foot soldiers.
The new 27-minute video begins with Shekau seated in front of a green canvas holding an AK-47. In language that alternates between Arabic and Hausa, Shekau again claims responsibility for the kidnapping, and announces: “Those girls who you preoccupy yourself with they have converted to Islam.” He further notes that his group will not release the girls, “unless you release our brothers,” meaning imprisoned Boko Haram fighters.
After Shekau’s 17-minute rant, the video switches to show an outdoor scene in which the camera pans over more than 100 girls. Many of the girls have been identified as those who were kidnapped from the school nearly one month ago. At the back of the group, two girls stand holding Boko Haram’s flag.
The girls appear to first recite a collective statement in Hausa and then recite the Koran. They do not appear to show overt signs of physical distress in the video. Most of their bodies are completely covered, however, as they are all dressed head-to-toe in traditional Islamic garb.
Three girls are then interviewed separately in Hausa in the video by someone off-camera. Reportedly, two of them speak of their “conversion” to Islam.
The international response to the events has been slow. Only recently have the United States and other Western countries weighed in on the incident. The US has followed up its May 3 offer of support by launching manned flights over Nigeria to help locate the girls. French President Francois Hollande has called for a summit of African leaders to figure out how to deal with Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US in November 2013. Shekau and two al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram leaders were added to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in June 2012.
The Nigerian government has also indicated willingness to negotiate the girls’ release with Boko Haram. Nigeria’s Minister of Special Duties Tanimu Turaki reportedly stated today that “[t]he window of negotiation is still open.”