Nigeria 'rejects Boko Haram prisoner exchange offer' after video message appears to show kidnapped schoolgirls for first time

Extremist group’s leader reportedly says the girls have been forced to convert to Islam while in captivity

The Nigerian government has reportedly rejected an offer from the militant group Boko Haram to release more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls in exchange for prisoners.

Earlier today the terrorist group released a new video message in which they purported to show some of the hundreds of girls they have captured from a town in the north-east of the country.

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the militant group, also said that the girls had been converted to Islam while in captivity, which he referred to as a "liberation".

The 17-minute video, obtained by the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), showed around 100 girls wearing full veils and reportedly praying in an undisclosed location.

In a separate part of the video, Shekau said that the girls would remain captive until the Nigerian government releases all imprisoned Boko Haram militants.

When asked if the government would reject any offer of a deal in exchange for prisoners, interior minister Abba Moro told AFP: "Of Course."

He said: "The issue in question is not about Boko Haram giving conditions."

The video has raised further concerns that the girls have now been split up into a number of groups across a remote stretch of Nigeria, as well as fears some may have been smuggled out of the country altogether.

The Nigerian government has previously said it will not "pay a ransom" to get the girls back, and on Thursday the president, Goodluck Jonathan, vowed that he would make the incident "the beginning of the end" of terrorism in the country.

Three girls were reported to have appeared individually in the videos, with one of them saying that they had not been harmed by their captors.

Two girls reportedly said they were Christian and have converted to Islam and the third said she is a Muslim.

Speaking to Sky News earlier, the father of one of the kidnapped girls said he did not want the government to accept Boko Haram's offer of an exchange for prisoners.

"It's not right," he said. "They'll do it again."

Graphic shows the regions of Nigeria in which the militant group Boko Haram is active Graphic shows the regions of Nigeria in which the militant group Boko Haram is active Click here to see larger version of graphic

Though reports vary on the exact number of schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram initially, it is believed that 276 remain missing from the more than 300 kidnapped on 14 April from Chibok in the state of Borno, which has a large Christian community.

A number of the girls were able to break free from the group, and speaking yesterday one of them said more would have escaped had they not feared being shot by their captors.

The government’s failure to rescue the remaining girls has attracted mounting outrage. After appearing to ignore earlier offers, last week Mr Jonathan accepted international help.

A screengrab from the video released by Boko Haram shows a man claiming to be their leader, Abubakar Shekau (AFP) A screengrab from the video released by Boko Haram shows a man claiming to be their leader, Abubakar Shekau (AFP) The team expected in Nigeria to assist in search and rescue efforts will include US hostage negotiators, counter-terror experts and intelligence agents from Britain, France, China and Spain. Israel also offered assistance on Sunday.

Around the world, the effort to rescue the captives has been fuelled by a social media campaign, under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Yesterday it was joined by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who later came in for criticism that there were more practical things he could do to help.

Responding to the video that emerged today, Downing Street condemned it as showing "the horror and the barbarity of the actions in the kidnapping of these girls".

A spokesperson for Mr Cameron said: "It underlines the importance of working with and in support of the Nigerian authorities and Nigerian people in terms of trying to bring about the release of the kidnapped girls."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician / Helpdesk - 2nd / 3rd Line

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Application Developer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in the centre of Glasgow,...

Recruitment Genius: Production Engineering Manager

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada