LAGOS: Nigeria’s Islamist extremist leader is threatening to sell the more than 300 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school in the remote northeast three weeks ago, in a new videotape received on Monday.
Abubakar Shekau for the first time also claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction, in a video reviewed. He threatens to attack more schools and abduct more girls.
“I abducted your girls,” said the leader of Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful”.
He described the girls as “slaves” and said “By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace”.
The hour-long video starts with fighters lofting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant “Allahu Akbar!”.
It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls had been forced to marry their abductors — who paid a nominal bride price of $12 — and that others had been carried into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.
Those reports could not be verified.
In the video, Shekau also says the students “will remain slaves with us”.
“They are slaves and I will sell them because I have the market to sell them,” he said, speaking in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.
An intermediary who has said Boko Haram is ready to negotiate ransoms for the girls also said two of the girls had died of snakebite and about 20 were ill.
He said Christians among the girls had been forced to convert to Islam. The man, an Islamic scholar, spoke on condition of anonymity because his position is sensitive.
Nigeria’s police have said more than 300 girls were abducted. Of that number, 276 remain in captivity and 53 escaped. The mass abduction and the military’s failure to rescue the girls and young women has roused national outrage with protests in major cities.
Protesters accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being insensitive to the girls’ plight.
First lady Patience Jonathan fuelled anger on Monday when a leader of a protest march said she had ordered the arrest of two protest leaders, expressed doubts there was any kidnapping and accused the protest leaders of belonging to Boko Haram.
It was unclear what authority Mrs Jonathan would have to give such orders, since there is no office of first lady in the Nigerian constitution.
Ayo Adewuyi, spokesman for the first lady, said he was unaware of any arrests. “The first lady did not order the arrest of anybody, and I’m sure of that,” he said.
But Saratu Angus Ndirpaya of Chibok town said State Security Service agents drove her and protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar to a police station on Monday after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital.
She said police immediately released her but that Nyadar remains in detention.
Deputy Superintendent Daniel Altine, police spokeswoman for Abuja, said she had no information but would investigate. But Ndirpaya said Mrs Jonathan had accused them of fabricating the abductions.
“She told so many lies, that we just wanted the government of Nigeria to have a bad name, that we did not want to support her husband’s rule,” she said.
She said other women at the meeting, allies of Mrs Jonathan, including officials of the government and the ruling party, cheered and chanted “yes, yes,” when Mrs Jonathan accused them of belonging to Boko Haram.
“They said we are Boko Haram, and that Mrs Nyadar is a member of Boko Haram.”
She said Nyadar and herself did not have daughters among those abducted, but were supporting the mothers of kidnapped daughters.
Mrs Jonathan said the women “had no right to protest,” especially Nyadar, whom she identified as the deputy director of the National Directorate of Employment.
In a report on the meeting, Daily Trust newspaper quoted Mrs Jonathan as ordering all Nigerian women to stop protesting, and threatening “should anything happen to them during protests, they should blame themselves”.
On Sunday night, Mr Jonathan said his administration was doing everything possible. On Friday he created a presidential committee to go to the affected Borno state to work with the community on a strategy to get the girls free.—AP