The militant group Boko Haram has released an 11½-minute video on Twitter showing many of the kidnapped schoolgirls who according to fighters lost their lives after recent Nigerian Air Force bombing attacks. A masked, unidentified fighter appeared alongside the girls demanding the immediate release of imprisoned Boko Haram militants in exchange for the teenage girls. The militants abducted some 276 schoolgirls from a small village in northeastern Nigeria about two years ago.
The video is the first proof in a long time that many girls are still alive more than 24 months. The girls, wearing traditional Islamic gowns, fought back tears. Most of them held babies, likely the product of rape after they were forcibly married to Boko Haram military men. The masked guard, quoted by Robyn Dixon of the Los Angeles Times, admitted that at least 40 girls were already married.
One of the girls later identified as Maida Yakubu, said in the video:
“No one cares for us. We are suffering here. The aircraft has come to bombard us and killed many of us. 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. We are suffering there is no food to eat, no good water to drink here.”
The case with the abducted girls went viral worldwide and attracted the attention of many, including First Lady Michelle Obama. A social media campaign started using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, and many public figures used it to raise awareness.
Although last year the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, stated he was open to negotiations with Boko Haram, the government did not officially comment the video. However, the spokesperson for the Bring Back Our Girls campaign said the video seemed to be legitimate. He noted that families of some of the kidnapped girls recognized eight of them who appeared in the video, wrote Dionne Searcey of The New York Times.
Shehu Sani, a Nigerian senator and a former negotiator and mediator with Boko Haram, told CNN there was a lack of trust between the government and the militants. According to him, that was the main reason for the difficult negotiations for the release of the girls.
Boko Haram pledged support to ISIS last year. Two primary factions have emerged sinc, and Islamic State recognized one of them. Earlier this month, Islamic State officially introduced a new leader of the group named Abu Musab al-Barnawi. Analysts believe the militants’ longtime leader Abudakar Shekau released the video with the kidnapped girls to assert authority over Boko Haram.
As Michelle Faul and Haruna Umar of The Washington Times noted, more than 20,000 Nigerians have been killed in the nearly 8-year-old Islamic uprising in the country. Boko Haram military forces made farmers abandon their land and stopped fishermen from fishing in Lake Chad. In addition to that, the militants prevented the transport of food across the area, leaving million people facing starvation.
As a result, 2.2 million people had to abandon their homes forcefully and became refugees. According to the international aid workers, the humanitarian crisis in the area is severe. Half a million people are starving and babies and small children are dying daily.