In the ongoing saga that is the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok in northern Nigeria, a new wrinkle has developed.
We told you last week about the characters that have been at the leadership of Boko Haram, the ideology that is behind the group, and what they have said they would do with the girls they have abducted. You will recall that the Islamic militants have claimed that they were going to sell the girls as wives, saying that this is the only appropriate use for them, that Allah commands it.
The rest of the world has responded, rallying behind the parents of the abducted girls, launching a hashtag campaign #bringbackourgirls (Bring Back Our Girls).
Now the self-proclaimed leader of Boko Haram says he is willing to do that with some of the girls. But he has a condition.
In a new video released by the group, Abubakar Shekau says that he still has the girls, that many of them have converted to Islam while in the custody of Boko Haram, and that he would release the youngest of them in exchange for jailed militants.
"These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with... we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims," Abubakar Shekau says in the video.
He then showed footage of some girls that he says are part of the abducted group, wearing full-length hijab, traditional Muslim garb for women, praying.
Three girls speak in the video. One said she was a Muslim. Two others say they were Christians and have converted to Islam.
"We will never release them until after you release our brethren," the leader said in the video. He referred to jailed militants as "brothers in arms". He also specified that he is only willing to release the youngest of the girls, those who have not converted and are not currently marriage material.
Nigerian officials say they reject any deals from Boko Haram.
"The issue in question is not about Boko Haram… giving conditions," said Interior Minister Abba Moro.
Image via YouTube