‘We will release the abducted girls if…’

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A former mediator of the Boko Haram group, Shehu Sani has revealed that the over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria by the Islamist militants could be released in exchange for jailed comrades. The girls were snatched from their boarding school in Chibok in the lawless Borno region in the north of the country.

The former mediator of the group told newsmen that he believes the video, where Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau threatens to sell the girls as slaves, shows he plans to use them as ‘bargaining chips’ rather than kill them. He said the footage, released on Monday, was an attempt to persuade the Nigerian government into a prisoner trade.

He told the newspaper: “From my knowledge of the group, to have him saying that he will sell them is proof that this issue can be resolved. The group is most likely to want to attach some kind of conditions to the girls being released, such as the freeing of some of their own prisoners.”

In the video, the Boko Haram leader is seen dressed in combat fatigues standing in front of an armoured personnel carrier and two pick-up trucks mounted with sub-machine guns. He then declares: “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah.” Shekau then takes a swipe at democracy, Western education, efforts for Muslims and Christians to live in peace and rails against non-believers in Islam.

Nigerian Police are now offering a £300,000 reward to anyone who can help them find the missing children. The director of Special Forces has told the Foreign Office that UK personnel could support the Nigerian armed forces with drones, intelligence, military planning or even join a rescue. However, top brass are reluctant to take part in a raid after the botched SBS mission in which British construction worker Chris McManus, 28, was executed by his Nigerian kidnappers in March 2012. The White House has also branded the kidnapping an ‘outrage and tragedy’ and the State Department said the US would send a ‘co-ordination cell’ including military personnel and law experts to Nigeria. [Osun Defender]