The Nigerian government has refused the bargain Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau offered in a video Monday that would exchange more than 200 kidnapped girls for a number of his imprisoned followers.
Wednesday will mark a full month since the schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school in rural northeast Nigeria. Shekau said in the 27-minute video, “We will never release them until after you release our brethren."
While one official from the Nigerian Information Ministry said “all options” were on the table, other officials have rejected the swap. Interior Minister Abba Moro said it isn’t happening.
“As far as this government is concerned, the option of [the] swap of innocent citizens with people who have taken arms against the country … is not on the table,” Moro said. He went on to say it was “absurd” that a terrorist group be making demands.
A father of one of the girls came out in opposition to a deal as well, saying it would free killers and encourage more kidnappings.
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"Let the government try to rescue them,” he said. “If they have a prisoner exchange, that will look like the government is giving into Boko Haram, and it will just encourage them to take more hostages. They will never stop."
"I have not yet seen the video, but I am not really interested in what Boko Haram's demands are. My daughter is a Christian; she will never change. I would rather she died as a princess than convert to Islam."
The Nigerian government appears to be preparing for a military action to free the girls. American, British and Israeli counterterrorism teams have flown into the country and are training and advising the Nigerian military.
Along with 30 advisers from the FBI, military and civilian security firms, the U.S. is flying “manned surveillance missions” over northeast Nigeria in hopes of locating the group of girls and their captors.
The U.S. is also sharing commercial satellite images with Nigeria, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed the U.S. doesn’t plan on “putting any American boots on the ground.”
The terrain in the video released Monday suggests the girls are likely being held in the dry savannahs of the northeast, where they were abducted. President Goodluck Jonathan says the girls are still being held in Nigeria. But some reports say Boko Haram has already moved some girls into neighboring countries -- Chad, Cameroon or Niger -- to be sold as bride slaves.
Borno’s state governor also believes the girls are still in Nigeria. He told BBC that he received reports of Boko Haram sightings and passed them along to “the relevant military authorities for them to crosscheck, verify and get additional information on the actual location of our abducted daughters.”