Dozens of girls believed to be some of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok by Boko Haram more than two years ago appeared in a video released Sunday by the Nigerian Islamist group. In the video, a masked militant speaking Hausa reportedly demands the Nigerian government release all detained Boko Haram members in exchange for the abducted girls' release. Claiming some girls had been killed in airstrikes by the Nigerian Air Force while others were injured, sick, or "married" to Boko Haram fighters, the man reportedly warns that the Chibok girls will never be found unless detained militants members are freed.
"Presently, some of the girls are crippled, some are terribly sick and some of them, as I had said, died during bombardment by the Nigerian military," the Associated Press reports the masked militant said while standing before roughly 40 girls in hijabs. "If our members in detention are not freed, let the government and parents of the Chibok girls know that they will never find these girls again," he said in an apparent attempt to push Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari into negotiations with the extremist group.
At one point in the video, the unidentified militant holds the microphone to one of the girls, who, although seeming to speak under duress, reportedly pleads for the parents of the abducted schoolgirls to press the government to release all detained Boko Haram fighters so that the girls may be able to return home.
The video also contains unverified footage purportedly showing the bodies of Chibok girls killed via government airstrike. The military has denied claims that abducted Chibok girls were killed in government airstrikes, Al Jazeera reported. Furthermore, the authenticity of the footage is unclear. Analysts asked by the Guardian to examine the footage reportedly said the injuries sustained by the girls seen in the clip "were more similar to machete wounds" than airstrikes, and the Associated Press claims one of the supposed "bodies" can be seen opening their eyes briefly.
This is the first major update on the Chibok school girls since May when one abducted schoolgirl later identified as Amina Ali Nkeki managed to escape Boko Haram after two years in captivity with the help of a man she identified as her husband. The girl told officials that six of the girls kidnapped from Chibok had died while the others were being held in Sambisa Forest, a stronghold of the Nigerian Islamist group.
A total of 276 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in April 2014 with more than 50 of them managing to escape their captors within a few days of abduction. The mass kidnapping sparked a global social media campaign under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls with even U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama hoping to highlight the crisis in Nigeria. Roughly 218 girls are still missing.