Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claims abduction of schoolgirls
Boko Haram yesterday claimed the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria, threatening to sell them as "slaves".
"I abducted your girls," the Islamist group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in the 57-minute video, referring to the 276 students kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno state three weeks ago. The abduction triggered international outrage.
Fifty-three of the girls managed to escape from the militants but 223 were still being held, state police said last Friday.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan pledged in his first public comments on the abduction on Sunday evening that the government would return the girls to their families.
"We promise that anywhere the girls are, we will surely get them out," Jonathan said, adding that he had sought help from foreign powers, including the United States and China.
For the first 14 minutes of the video, Shekau takes a swipe at democracy, Western education and efforts for Muslims and Christians to live in peace, and rails against non-believers in Islam.
"I abducted a girl at a Western education school and you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married," he said.
"I will repeat this: Western education should fold up. I abducted your girls.
"I will sell them in the market, by Allah," Shekau said, claiming his group was holding the girls as slaves.
"I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine," he said elsewhere in the video.
Unconfirmed reports from local leaders in Chibok suggested that the girls had been taken across Nigeria's borders with Chad and Cameroon and sold as brides for as little as US$12.
Boko Haram has been waging an increasingly deadly insurgency in Nigeria that has claimed more than 1,500 lives this year alone. The violence has largely been confined to three northeastern states - Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.