The Nigerian Islamic militant group Boko Haram released a new video on Monday claiming to show about 130 Nigerian schoolgirls that were kidnapped last month month as the group’s leader offered to free the girls in exchange for the release of militant prisoners.
Anubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, claims in the video that the girls converted to Islam. They are seen in the video, which was first obtained by Agence France-Presse, wearing full-length hijabs and reciting the Quran; a couple of the girls say they had previously been Christians. It’s unclear exactly where or when the video was shot.
"These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with … we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims,” Shekau says in the 17-minute video, according to the Guardian. You can see a clip of the 17-minute video above.
Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden,” kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from their secondary school in Borno state on April 14. The abductions were part of a wider attack in Chibok, Nigeria. Some of the girls were able to escape from the militants after being kidnapped, but about 200 are believed to still be in the custody of Boko Haram.
The video doesn't appear to show all of the girls that Boko Haram claimed to have kidnapped. This could mean that the girls are being held separately by Boko Haram to avoid detection, according to the BBC.
The kidnappings drew worldwide condemnation as Shekau threatened to sell the girls into slavery. Boko Haram had said that the girls were kidnapped because they should have been married instead of attending school. A hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, spread on Twitter to draw awareness of the schoolgirls’ plight.
Shekau said the only way he would release the girls is if imprisoned Boko Haram fighters are also released as part of an exchange.
"We will never release them [the girls] until after you release our brethren," he says in the video. "Here I mean those girls who have not submitted [converted to Islam]."
Meanwhile, a number of countries, including the U.S., Britain, Israel and France have offered their expertise to help find the girls. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, said he was hopeful the girls will be found, Reuters reported.