A still image taken from the video released today by Boko Haram, showing the kidnapped girls. (Photo: AP Photo)
Since April 14, about 300 girls have been held captive in northern Nigeria by the militant Islamic group Boko Haram. Today, a video was released that is believed to show some of the kidnapped girls. Boko Haram is said to have released the video, and claims that the girls — all shown wearing full-length Islamic dress — have converted to Islam (most of them are thought to be Christian). The group also states that the girls would not be released until its demands were met — namely, that militant prisoners in Nigeria were freed.
If the video is authentic, it's the first time the girls have been seen since being abducted from their school last month.
The full 27-minute-long video was obtained by the French news agency AFP. There is no indication of where the video was taken, and therefore where the girls might be. In it, a man believed to be Boko Haram's leader, Abubekar Shekau, says that he is willing to exchange the girls for prisoners.
In another video released on May 6, Shekau is seen saying "western education should end," and threatened to sell the girls.
About 53 of the girls are said to have escaped from their captors, while 276 remain captive. One of the escapees, 19-year-old Sarah Lawan, told the Associated Press yesterday that the kidnapping was "too terrifying for words," and that she was scared to return to school.
"I am pained that my other colleagues could not summon the courage to run away with me," she said. "Now I cry each time I came across their parents and see how they weep when they see me."
The girls have been held for more than four weeks now. The Nigerian government has drawn much criticism in that time for failing to respond quickly and efficiently to the abductions. Now, the international community is stepping in to help, with military and intelligence officials from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and other countries being offered to Nigeria to aid with the search.
Boko Haram has been waging a campaign for years to establish Islamic law in Nigeria, and is particularly active in the country's northeast. Three states — Yobe, Adamawa and Borno, where the abduction took place — have been under emergency rule since May 2013. You can read more about the kidnappings on Strombo.com here and here.