A heartbreaking new video of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic extremists shows them bravely speaking out about their ordeal for the first time.
The footage, not released publicly but seen by The Mail on Sunday, was taken in a jungle clearing a month after their abduction.
More than 250 girls were taken in a raid on their school in Chibok, in Nigeria’s north-east, on April 14 by Boko Haram terrorists, who want to impose Sharia law on the country.
The girls in the video look healthy, but it is understood that fraught negotiations are under way to broker the release several pupils who have fallen ill, including one with a broken wrist.
In the video, eight girls, dressed in their home-made school uniforms of pale blue gingham, plead for release as they stand courageously in front of the camera. They are clearly scared, upset and trying to be brave.
Each of them walks in turn to a spot in front of a white sheet fixed to a crude frame between the trees.
Four of them can be heard clearly, in their Hausa language, stating that they were taken by force and that they are hungry. A tall girl, aged about 18, says tearfully: “My family will be so worried.”
Another, speaking softly, says: “I never expected to suffer like this in my life.” A third says: “They have taken us away by force.’ The fourth girl complains: ‘We are not getting enough food.”
The video, taken by an intermediary on May 19, has been shown to President Goodluck Jonathan. It was intended to serve as “proof of life” for the girls and to encourage the President to accede to the terrorists’ demands.
Two earlier videos showed the girls seated on the ground, dressed in hijabs, reciting the Koran, and Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declaring he would sell them into slavery, or marry them off to their kidnappers, if members of his sect were not released from prison.
Pressure from the international community and criticism of the President’s slow response to the kidnapping have led to a series of contradictory pronouncements from his government. Ministers have declared they will not negotiate with Boko Haram, or consider the release of prisoners, while official spokesmen have said “the window is always open for dialogue”.
At a Paris peace summit, several West African countries neighbouring Nigeria vowed to join in “outright war” against the terrorists. Britain, France and America pledged their support and have sent teams of military experts and advisers to the region. Intelligence sources have told the MoS of several rescue attempts, one involving the release of suspected low-level Boko Haram members detained without charges or trial.
Two attempts were aborted at the last minute when the terrorists took fright while delivering a group of girls to a safe location.
Last week Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Alex Badeh said the government knew the location of the girls and claimed that police and military had been ‘following them’ since the abduction. He refused to divulge details, saying it would put the girls in further danger.
Sources said Mr Badeh’s announcement may have been the result of government officials seeing the new, unpublished video. They may have been able to persuade Boko Haram’s intermediary to provide details of the location.
It is believed the hostages have been split into at least four groups.
Scathing condemnations of Nigeria’s failure to address the menace of Boko Haram, ever since a proposed peace deal failed last August – leading to the extension of a state of emergency in three northern states – continued worldwide last week.
US Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Nigeria had been ‘tragically and unacceptably slow’ to begin a search.
Others say the clock really being watched by Nigerian politicians is not the six weeks and counting since the kidnap but the 11 months to the country’s elections.
Opposition politician Nuhu Ribadu has accused the government of ‘total failure’. [DailyMail]