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Nigeria’s Boko Haram offers to swap kidnapped girls for prisoners - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video released by Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying, being filmed by an unidentified man (R) in an undisclosed rural location. (AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM)

A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video released by Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying, being filmed by an unidentified man (R) in an undisclosed rural location. (AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM)

Abuja, Reuters—The leader of the Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram said he will release more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by his fighters last month in exchange for prisoners, in a video uploaded onto YouTube on Monday.

Around 100 girls are also shown in an undisclosed location wearing full veils and praying in the 17-minute video in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says: “We will never release them until after you release our brethren.”

Militants fighting for an Islamist state stormed a secondary school in the northeastern village of Chibok on April 14 and seized 276 girls who were taking exams. Some managed to escape but around 200 remain missing.

The group has killed thousands of people since 2009 and destabilized parts of northeast Nigeria, the country with Africa’s largest population and biggest economy.

The attack has provoked global expressions of outrage, and concern about the fate of the girls deepened when Shekau threatened in a video released earlier this month to sell the girls “in the market.”

Nigeria said on Saturday it had deployed two army divisions to hunt for the girls while several nations including the US, the UK, Israel and France have offered assistance or sent experts.

The Nigerian government has been sharply criticized for its response to the abductions, but President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday that international military and intelligence assistance made him optimistic about finding the girls.

French President François Hollande on Sunday offered to host a summit in Paris next Saturday for Nigeria and its neighbors to discuss the militant group. The leaders of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger might also attend and the UK, the EU and the US would probably be represented as well, Hollande’s aides said.

The mass abduction of schoolgirls has touched a chord around the world and triggered a support campaign using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.