Nigerian Islamist terror group Boko Haram has released new footage of some of the schoolgirls they kidnapped en masse from the northern town of Chibok, simultaneously distressing and giving hope to the girls’ parents. Around 50 girls can be seen in the 11-minute video, seated behind a masked gunman who demands the release of militants in return for the girls, adding that some of them have already died in airstrikes. “We want you to know again, we have nothing to get from these girls, but if you don’t set our brothers free, we will never set them free by the power of almighty Allah,” he says, according to a translation by Sahara TV. “You will see how jets killed your own children.”
The government says it is in touch with the militants, who are said to be holding more than 200 of the 276 senior high school students seized from their boarding school in April 2014. Non-Muslims have since been forcibly converted, and it is thought that many of the girls have been sexually abused. The militant seen on camera says about 40 of the girls from Chibok have been “married off” to their captors.
Esther Yakubu, the mother of Maida Yakubu, who is seen in the video answering the gunman’s questions, told the BBC the government should just release the militants. Esther recently wrote an open letter to her daughter, describing all the hopes she still holds for her future.
Her father, Yakubu Kabu, told CNN, “I’m very, very happy I saw my daughter on the video and I’m very happy she’s alive. Some people has said the kidnapping is not true. Some people have said they are no more alive. Now I see her and I know she’s OK.”
He also said he recognized many other girls from Chibok in the footage.
Samuel Yaga, father of schoolgirl Sarah Samuel, told the BBC he had watched the video several times, identifying his daughter among the seated girls. “The fact is we are overwhelmed with a feeling of depression,” he said. “It’s like being beaten and being stopped from crying. You helplessly watch your daughter but there is nothing you can do. It’s a real heartache.
“Those who are still alive — we want them back. We want them back irrespective of their condition.
“As ordinary men, there is nothing we [the other fathers and I] can do on our own. We are just here unable to do anything with our lives. You see your child but someone denies you from having it. They are being forcefully married and they now live in terrible conditions.”
Some of the girls in the video can be seen crying. One is holding an infant. The end of the video shows the bodies of some girls strewn on the ground, allegedly killed by air strikes.
In an April column for the Globe and Mail, Obiageli Ezekwesili, co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign — who has appeared at the Women in the World Summits — wrote: “Getting the girls out of the grips of terrorists requires prioritized, sophisticated and sustained rescue operations of the kind that only governments can provide. The intelligence assets of the world must now be reactivated for our ChibokGirls.”