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'I abducted your girls ... By Allah, I will sell them': Nigerian Islamist leader claims responsibility for mass abduction

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'Release our daughters': Nigerian women protest

Hundreds protest in Nigeria to call on security forces to do more to secure the release of over 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamists.

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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.

A still from a video that shows the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau (centre) threatening to sell hundreds of girls his group abducted from a Chibok school in the northern state of Borno.

A still from a video that shows the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau (centre) threatening to sell hundreds of girls his group abducted from a Chibok school in the northern state of Borno. Photo: AFP

"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 $US12 ($12.95) - and that others have been carried into neighbouring 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.

'By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace' ... Abubakar Shekau (centre), the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, claims responsibility for the mass kidnapping of Nigerian school girls.

'By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace' ... Abubakar Shekau (centre), the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, claims responsibility for the mass kidnapping of Nigerian school girls. Photo: AFP

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.

A woman carries placard to press for the release of missing Chibok school girls during a rally by civil society in Lagos on Sunday.

A woman carries placard to press for the release of missing Chibok school girls during a rally by civil society in Lagos on Sunday. Photo: AFP

First lady Patience Jonathan fuelled anger on 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.

It was unclear what authority Mrs Jonathan would have to give such orders, since there is no office of first lady in the Nigerian constitution.

The first lady's office denied there were any arrests.

Widespread anger ... A woman chants slogans at a rally calling for the release of missing Chibok school girls at the state government house, in Lagos, Nigeria.

Widespread anger ... A woman chants slogans at a rally calling for the release of missing Chibok school girls at the state government house, in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: AFP

But Saratu Angus Ndirpaya of Chibok town said State Security Service agents drove her and protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar to a police station on Monday after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital.

She said police immediately released her but that Nyadar remains in detention. Deputy Superintendent Daniel Altine, police spokeswoman for Abuja, said she had no information but would investigate.

On Sunday night, Jonathan said his administration is doing everything possible. On Friday, he created a presidential committee to go to the affected Borno state to work with the community on a strategy for the release.

Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan has been widely criticised for not doing enough to free the abducted schoolgirls.

Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan has been widely criticised for not doing enough to free the abducted schoolgirls. Photo: AP

Some girls who have escaped from the mass kidnapping said their captors identified themselves as Boko Haram.

Protesters arrested 

A leader of a protest march for the missing schoolgirls says Nigeria’s first lady abused them, expressed doubts there was any kidnapping and accused them of belonging to the network blamed for the abductions. Then she ordered two of them arrested, the AP reported.

A woman holds a sign during a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014.

A woman holds a sign during a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Saratu Angus Ndirpaya of Chibok town said State Security Service agents drove her and protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar to a police station on Monday after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital.

She said Nyadar remains in detention. Police could not be reached for comment.

Ndirpaya says Patience Jonathan accused them of fabricating the abductions to give Nigeria’s government and her husband “a bad name.”

A policeman stand beside children holding as members of Lagos based civil society groups hold rally calling for the release of missing Chibok school girls at the state government house, in Lagos, Nigeria. Click for more photos

Release our daughters: Nigerian women protest

People take part in a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month, the French news agency AFP reported, citing a video it had obtained. Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girl secondary school in Chibok, in Borno state, then packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon. Photo: AFP

Three weeks have now passed since dozens of heavily armed men descended upon a darkened dormitory where hundreds of Nigerian girls slept, abducted them and disappeared into the night.

Three weeks since authorities erroneously stated that only 100 Chibok girls were missing — when in fact it was 276.

And three weeks since hundreds of parents last saw their children, since they’ve launched protests that have swept a nation, since some of the girls were reportedly sold and vanished.

Government has no idea of where abducted girls are

Nigerian President Jonathan, who has taken sweeping criticism for what some have perceived as disregard for the crisis, addressed concerns on Sunday. “Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out,” Jonathan said, adding that officials had no idea where they were.

Then he proceeded to criticise parents for not being forthright with police. ”What we request is maximum cooperation from the guardians and the parents of these girls. Because up to this time, they have not been able to come clearly, to give the police clear identity of the girls that have yet to return,” he said.

The events illustrated an escalating clash between a protest movement and a government many say has been feckless in its pursuit of the children.

Adding to that tension is dismay that the government seems to have no idea where the girls are — because Village elder Pogo Bitrus said it’s clear to locals.

“Some of them have been taken to the northern part of the state, and these are the ones with the bad experiences in the mass marriages,” Bitrus explained on Monday morning while waiting for a protester at an Abuja police station, who he claims was “detained for no reason.”

“But the bulk of them are kept in the Sambisa Forest,” Bitrus said. “It’s not too far from where the girls were abducted and where the majority of the escapees are from.”

While many in the West have expressed outrage at the abductions — there were weekend protests in London and Los Angeles — Bitrus conveyed resignation.

“The government is slow and it is unfortunate, but this is the Nigerian attitude. This is not the West. If it was, someone would have resigned or been thrown out, but the whole thing is different here. And we must accommodate whatever.”

Abduction 'a tradition of Boko Haram'

On April 14, the girls were believed to have been captured by murderously violent militants belonging to Boko Haram.

Since 2010, the group has carried out a vicious campaign against education, which it blames for many of the problems in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation.

According to some estimates, the group has killed as many as 2300 people. This year, more than 1500 have died in regular bouts of ethnic violence, and the government has at times appeared powerless to stop the bloodletting.

Today, it’s unclear which side has control over Nigeria’s northern states — the government, or Boko Haram. Some of the girls, though Bitrus says it’s unclear how many, have been taken into Cameroon and Chad and have since disappeared.

This reality has made some in Nigeria lose faith in the military, and question whether it can monitor the girls’ movements, let alone rescue them. “The free movement of the kidnappers in huge convoys with their captives for two weeks without being traced by the military, which claims to be working diligently to free the girls, is unbelievable,” Bitrus said.

Still, there was reason for optimism, he said. This isn’t the first time Boko Haram has kidnapped girls. But it is one of the first times, if not the first, that it’s attracted such global attention.

“This has been a tradition of Boko Haram,” he said. “This is not starting now. It has just ever been heard of before. … But with this pressure, they’ll be released very soon.”

And if not? “The Boko Haram is known to be so vicious, so ruthless,” he said. “They don’t value life. They are people who blow themselves up. They are capable of doing anything.”

AP, The Washington Post

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