LAGOS, Nigeria (CBS DC/AP) — Nigeria’s Islamic extremist leader is threatening to sell the nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school in the remote northeast three weeks ago, in a new videotape received Monday.
Abubakar Shekau for the first time also claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction, warning that his group plans 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 hourlong video starts with fighters lifting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great.”
It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors — who paid a nominal bride price of $12 — and that others have been carried into neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Those reports could not be verified.
In the video, Shekau also said the students “will remain slaves with us.” That appears a reference to the ancient jihadi custom of enslaving women captured in a holy war, who then can be used for sex.
“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.
The video was reviewed by The Associated Press, and both the face and the voice of the leader of Boko Haram were recognizable.
Shekau brushed off warnings that the abductions could be an international crime, saying in English, as if to reach his accusers in the international community: “What do you know about human rights? You’re just claiming human rights (abuses), but you don’t know what it is.”
An intermediary who has said Boko Haram is ready to negotiate ransoms for the girls also said two of the girls have died of snakebite and about 20 are ill. He said Christians among the girls have 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 have ignited national outrage with demonstrations in major cities. Protesters accused President Goodluck Jonathan of insensitivity to the girls’ plight.
On Sunday night, President 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 free the girls.
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