MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Nigeria’s kidnapped schoolgirls have all been converted to Islam and married off, the leader of Nigeria’s Islamic extremists claimed in a new video message.
The leader of Boko Haram also denied he had agreed to any cease-fire with the government.
Abubakar Shekau dashed hopes for a prisoner exchange to get the girls released in the new video released late Friday night.
“The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long ago married them off,” he said, laughing.
Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls taking exams at a boarding school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok in April prompted international outrage and criticism of Nigeria’s government for not acting quickly to free them. Dozens of the girls escaped on their own in the first couple of days, but 219 remain missing.
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that the girls have been broken up into several groups and that some may have been carried across borders into Cameroon and Chad.
The government had said it had negotiated with two Boko Haram leaders in Chad, with talks hosted by President Idriss Deby, and that it was confident the girls would be freed soon. But Boko Haram has many factions.
Shekau also threatened to kill an unidentified German hostage in the video, which was received by The Associated Press through the same channels as previous messages.
“If we want to, we will hack him or slaughter him or shoot him,” he taunted.
A German development worker was kidnapped at gunpoint in northeast Gombi town in July.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last week told reporters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, that he had no new information about the abductee.
A previous video in October showed the beheading of a man whom friends identified as the pilot of a missing fighter jet that Boko Haram claims to have shot down.
Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, on Oct. 17 announced that Boko Haram had agreed to an immediate cease-fire to end a 5-year-old insurgency that has killed thousands of people and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes in northeast Nigeria.
But attacks and abductions have continued unabated. This week the rebels seized Mubi, a city of more than 200,000 people. Fighting also continued Friday in Vimtin, the nearby village where Badeh was born.
Shekau in August announced that Boko Haram wanted to establish an Islamic caliphate, along the lines of the IS group in Syria and Iraq. Fleeing residents have reported that hundreds of people are being detained for infractions of the extremists’ version of strict Shariah law in several towns and villages under their control.
Shekau’s announcement further discredits the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who on Thursday formally announced his candidacy for elections on Feb. 14, 2015 in Africa’s most populous nation. Nigeria, with some 160 million people, is divided almost equally between Muslims who dominate the north and Christians in the south. The West African nation is the biggest oil producer on the continent and has its biggest economy.