A new video issued by Boko Haram claims to show some of the nearly 300 schoolgirls missing in Nigeria, who the Islamist group’s leader says have converted to Islam.
Abubakar Shekau reportedly said the girls would not be released until his fighters being held in prison are freed.
More than 300 youngsters were abducted from a school on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state. Fifty-three managed to escape but 276 are still missing.
In the video, the militant chief speaks for 17 minutes before showing what he says are about 130 of the girls, wearing full-length hijabs, reciting the first chapter of the Koran and praying in an undisclosed rural location.
One of the girls talks directly to the camera.
None of the youngsters appears to be visibly distressed, but it appears as if they are under duress.
Holding a pad of paper in his hand, Shekau tells the camera: “These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with their affair we have indeed ‘liberated’ them. We have indeed ‘liberated’ them.
“Do you know ‘we have liberated them’? These girls have become Muslims. They are Muslims.”
He continues: “It is now four years or five years that you arrested our brethren and they are still in your prison.
You are doing many things (to them). And now you are talking about these girls. We will never release them until after you release our brethren.”
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “The video from Boko Haram will only add to the agony of the families involved. It is a reminder of the heartlessness and cruelty of these people.”
He said British and US teams were working with the Nigerian authorities and security forces which are trying to find and rescue the captives.