Kano, Nov 2: The Islamist group Boko Haram has reportedly claimed that 219 schoolgirls it kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this year have been converted to Islam and been married off.
According to a news agency which obtained a new video, the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, also denied Nigerian government’s claim that it had agreed to a ceasefire.
Shekau reportedly said the Islamists were holding a German national, who was kidnapped in Adamawa state in northeast Nigeria in July.
It may be noted that the schoolgirls were kidnapped from the remote northeast town of Chibok in Borno state in April, raising global awareness about the group whose five-year insurgency in northern Nigeria has claimed an estimated 13,000 lives.
The video comes after a surprise announcement by the Nigerian military and presidency on October 17 that a deal had been reached with the militants to end hostilities and return the children.
Violence — and fresh kidnappings — have continued unabated since the announcement, including a triple bombing of a bus station in the northern city of Gombe on Friday that killed at least eight.
Nigeria`s government maintains that talks are ongoing in the Chadian capital, Ndjamena.
Shekau, dressed in military fatigues and boots with a black turban and flanked by 15 armed fighters, said: “We have not made ceasefire with anyone.
“We did not negotiate with anyone… It`s a lie. It`s a lie. We will not negotiate. What is our business with negotiation? Allah said we should not.”
Shekau mentions the Chibok girls for the first time since a video obtained on May 5, when more than 100 were shown in a rural location dressed in the hijab and reciting verses from the Koran.
Then, the militant leader said many of the girls had converted to Islam but in the latest, he indicated that all of those held had become Muslims.
“Don`t you know the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls have converted to Islam? They have now memorised two chapters of the Koran,” he said.
Shekau previously threatened to sell the girls as slave brides and also suggested he would be prepared to release them in exchange for Boko Haram prisoners.
In the latest message, he said while laughing: “We have married them off. They are in their marital homes.”
Human Rights Watch said in a report published this week that Boko Haram was holding upwards of 500 women and young girls and that forced marriage was commonplace in the militant camps.
(With Agency Inputs)