Boko Haram video gives mother of kidnapped Chibok girl proof of life - and fresh misery

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 2:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 9:43pm

The mother of one of the Chibok girls kidnapped more than two years ago by Nigeria’s Islamic extremists on Sunday saw the first proof her daughter is alive — a video of her begging Nigeria’s government to exchange detained Boko Haram militants for the girls’ freedom.

Their faces bleak, a group of several dozen girls could be seen wearing long Islamic gowns, guarded by a masked man in camouflage, in the video released Sunday. Some fought back tears. Many held babies, likely the product of rape after the girls were forcibly married to fighters. About 40 of the girls have been married off, the masked man said.

“No one cares for us,” said a girl, identifying herself as Maida Yakubu.

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“We are suffering here. The aircraft has come to bombard us and killed many of us. Some are wounded,” Yakubu said. “Every day we are in pains and suffering. So are our babies. Some of our husbands that we married also are injured, some dead.

“Please go and beg the government of Nigeria to release the members of our abductors so that they too can free us to let us come home,” she said. “We are really suffering, there is no food to eat, no good water to drink here.”

Her mother and father, Esther and Kanu, watched the video the weekly rally of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign at Unity Fountain in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

Esther Yakubu broke down in tears as she saw her daughter’s face for the first time in more than two years.

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“When I heard her voice, I realised she is my daughter,” Kanu Yakubu said.

About 10 other girls had been recognised in the new video, according to the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

Some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls have been killed by Nigerian military air strikes, according to the new video from Boko Haram.

It’s not clear how many schoolgirls have died among the 218 who remain missing.

In the video, Maida Yakubu claims that 40 have been “married” to fighters.

The video shows a militant warning in the Hausa language that if President Muhammadu Buhari’s government battles Boko Haram with firepower, the girls won’t be seen again.

“Presently, some of the girls are crippled, some are terribly sick and some of them, as I had said, died during bombardment by the Nigerian military,” the fighter says.

“If our members in detention are not freed, let the government and parents of the Chibok girls know that they will never find these girls again,” he said.

The video, cited by the SITE Intelligence Group, was posted by Ahmad Salkida, a Nigerian journalist known to have good contacts in Boko Haram. Salkida says he was given the video by associates of Abubakar Shekau, who is in a leadership battle with a lieutenant named by the Islamic State group as the new leader of what it calls its West Africa Province.

The mass abduction in April 2014 brought Boko Haram to the world’s attention and even got the participation of US first lady Michelle Obama in the #Bring Back Our Girls social media campaign, promising her husband would do all in his power to help liberate them.

The government came under increased pressure from parents and Bring Back Our Girls campaigners after the May escape of one young woman, a proof of life that they said should encourage the military and government to redouble rescue efforts. The escapee said some of the girls had died but scores remained in captivity under heavy guard.

The video goes on to show bodies from an alleged air raid, including that of a girl whose eyes flicker open briefly.

Nigeria’s Air Force has reported near-daily bombardments of Boko Haram camps and the military of increased ground assaults in which they have freed thousands of captives, though none of the Chibok girls.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse