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Boko Haram video claims to show missing girls

LAGOS/ABUJA--Boko Haram released a new video on Monday claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls and alleging the teenagers had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed.

The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, speaks on the video obtained by AFP for 17 minutes before showing what he said were the girls, in Muslim dress and praying in an undisclosed rural location.

A total of 2 76 girls were abducted on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Police say 223 are still missing.

The footage shows about 130 girls in black and grey full-length hijabs sitting on scrubland near trees, reciting the first chapter of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and holding their palms upwards in prayer.

Three of the girls are interviewed. Two say they were Christian and had converted while one said she was Muslim.

All three pronounce their belief in Islam, dispassionately to the camera, apparently under duress.

Most of the group behind them were seated cross-legged on the ground. The girls appeared calm and one said that they had not been harmed.

Demand to Free Boko Haram Members Rejected

There was no indication of when the video was taken, although the quality is better than on previous occasions and at one point an armed man is seen in shot with a hand-held video camera.

In the video, Shekau appears in front of a lime green canvas backdrop wearing combat fatigues and carrying an automatic weapon. Shekau does not appear in the same shot as the girls at any point during the 27-minute video.

Speaking in his native Hausa language as well as Arabic, he restates his claim of responsibility made in a video released last Monday and said the girls had converted to Islam while others had not.

“These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with... we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims,” he said.

“There are still others who have not converted and are holding on to your belief. There are many of them,” he added.

“You are making so much noise about Chibok, Chibok, Chibok. Only Allah knows how many women we are holding, the infidels who Allah commands us to hold.”

The militant leader said that Boko Haram's brothers in arms had been held in prison for up to five years and suggested that the girls would be released if the fighters were freed.

“We will never release them (the girls) until after you release our brethren,” he said.

Asked on Monday if the government would reject the suggestion by Shekau in the new video that the girls may be released once Nigeria frees all militant prisoners, Interior Minister Abba Moro told AFP: “Of course.”

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A screenshot taken on Monday from a video released by Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows a man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar ...

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