The leader of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the abduction of more than 250 schoolgirls from their boarding school in Chibok, in the norther state of Bono, Nigeria. According to a video obtained Monday by Agence France-Presse, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared that the group abducted the girls — missing now for nearly three weeks — and intends to sell them into slavery. “I abducted your girls,” Shekau said according to AFP. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah.”
According to a BBC News translation of the video, Shekau also said, “The girls should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married,” and, “God instructed me to sell them, they are his properties and I will carry out his instructions.”
BBC Hausa Service editor Mansur Liman said that Shekau did not state in the video the exact number of girls abducted or where they are now.
Parents of the missing girls and others in Nigeria have continued to lead demonstrations to pressure the Nigerian government and President Goodluck Jonathan to act to secure the girls’ return. Two leaders in the protest movement were arrested Monday after a meeting with Nigerian first lady Patience Jonathan. Activists told the BBC that they were detained after the meeting with the president’s wife, during which she is alleged to have accused them of fabricating the story of the abduction in order to destabilize her husband’s leadership and reputation.
More on the meeting from the New York Times:
Mrs. Jonathan had invited mothers of the abducted girls to come to Abuja from Chibok, the remote northeastern town where the girls were seized, according to Hadiza Bala Usman, the organizer of the protests. But the “timeline was too short,” Ms. Usman said — there are no flights, and Chibok is several days’ journey by road.
The mothers from Chibok “delegated the responsibility” of meeting with Mrs. Jonathan to neighbors who were already in Abuja. But when the president’s wife discovered that the women with whom she met were not mothers of the missing girls, she became enraged, according to Ms. Usman and Pogu Bitrus, a Chibok official who knows both women.
Mrs. Jonathan told the women, “You lied to us by saying you are a mother,” according to Ms. Usman. “Because of that we are detaining you.”
Mr. Bitrus said that Mrs. Jonathan “ordered that they be arrested for impersonation.”
The White House on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to aiding the search effort, with administration officials announcing the United States has offered intelligence and information sharing to the Nigerian government.
Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said that President Obama had been briefed several times on the abductions and that the State Department had been “in regular touch with the Nigerian government about what we might do to help support its efforts to find and free these young women.”