Fears for the fate of more than 200 Nigerian girls turned even more nightmarish Monday when the leader of the Islamist group that kidnapped them announced plans to sell them.
“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.
“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.
Boko Haram means “Western education is sin.” In his nearly hourlong, rambling video, Shekau repeatedly called for Western education to end.
“Girls, you should go and get married,” he said.
The outrageous threat means the girls’ parents worst fears could be realized. Parents have been avoiding speaking to the media for fear their daughters may be singled out for reprisals.
“Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out,” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed Sunday.
But weeks after the girls were kidnapped April 14, Africa’s largest country seems to be no closer to finding them, triggering complaints of ineptitude — some of which is expressed on Twitter with the globally trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
On Sunday, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the Nigerian High Commission in London, chanting, “Bring them back!” and “Not for sale!”
Crowds from Los Angeles to London rallied on Saturday as well.
“Access to education is a basic right & an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We must stand up to terrorism. #BringBackOurGirls.”
Families had sent their girls to the rural school in Chibok to try to get them a desperately needed education. Though Nigeria has Africa’s largest economy, poverty remains widespread: Nearly 62% of the country’s nearly 170 million people live in extreme poverty, according to the CIA World Factbook.
According to accounts, armed members of Boko Haram overwhelmed security guards at school last month, pulled the girls out of bed and forced them into trucks. The convoy of trucks then disappeared into the dense forest bordering Cameroon.
On Friday, Nigerian authorities updated the number of girls kidnapped to 276. At least 53 of the girls escaped, leaving 223 in the hands of their captors, police said.
Authorities said the number of missing girls could grow as police fill in spotty school enrollment records.