Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in
this still image taken from an undated video released by
Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. REUTERS/Boko
The leader of the Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko
Haram has offered to release more than 200 schoolgirls abducted
by his fighters last month in exchange for prisoners, according
to a video seen on YouTube.
About 100 girls wearing full veils and praying are shown in
an undisclosed location in the 17-minute video in which Boko
Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaks.
Boko Haram militants, who are fighting for an Islamist state,
stormed a secondary school in the northeastern village of
Chibok on April 14 and seized 276 girls who were taking
exams. Some managed to escape but about 200 remain missing.
A government official said "all options" were being
considered to secure the girls' release.
Nigeria has deployed two army divisions to hunt for the girls
while several nations including the United States, Britain,
Israel and France have offered help or sent experts.
In a 1.25 minute clip of the video on YouTube, scores of
girls in black and grey veils sit on the ground and chant,
before Shekau, wearing military fatigues and holding an
AK-47, addresses the camera. He appears confident and at one
"All I am saying is that if you want us to release the girls
that we have kidnapped, those who have not accepted Islam
will be treated as the Prophet (Mohammed) treated infidels
and they will stay with us," he said, according to a
translation of his words originally spoken in a Nigerian
"We will not release them while you detain our brothers," he
said, before naming a series of cities in Nigeria. It was not
clear whether he was in the same location as the girls.
The government has seen the latest video, Mike Omeri, a
senior official in the Ministry of Information, told a news
"The government of Nigeria is considering all options towards
freeing the girls and reuniting them with their parents," he
Authorities are holding hundreds of suspected Boko Haram
militants and there have been several jail break attempts.
Suspected militants overpowered guards at a prison near the
presidential villa in Abuja in March, triggering a gun battle
that killed 21 people.
In another incident the same month, insurgents attempting to
free captured comrades fought a two-hour battle in March at
Giwa barracks in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.
Human rights groups have said previously that Giwa barracks
has been used to illegally detain and torture suspects,
something the military denies.
SUMMIT IN FRANCE
The Nigerian government has been criticised for its response
to the abductions but President Goodluck Jonathan said on
Sunday that international military and intelligence
assistance made him optimistic about finding the girls.
A Nigerian military source told Reuters on Monday in
Maiduguri that two foreign counter-terrorism units were
already on the ground.
"They have visited Chibok on Sunday for preliminary
investigation with our troops and experts before fully
kick-starting the rescue mission," the source said.
Jonathan will attend a summit in Paris on Saturday to discuss
security in the region.
"The objective is to deepen the cooperation and partnership
between Nigeria and her neighbours," Jonathan's spokesman
Reuben Abati said.
Leaders from Chad, Benin, Cameroon and Niger are also due to
attend along with representatives from the European Union,
Britain and the United States, likely to be at foreign
The mass abduction of schoolgirls has touched a chord around
the world, and triggered a support campaign using the Twitter
Boko Haram has killed thousands since 2009 and destabilised
parts of northeast Nigeria, the country with Africa's largest
population and biggest economy.