The jihadis who kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls two weeks ago say they are “willing to consider” the release of those who have not already been trafficked abroad and sold into marriage.
The girls’ abductors, who have been in regular direct contact with a government intermediary, also report that three of their teenaged captives have died – although they did not state how this happened. Eighteen others, they say, are now sick.
The intermediary told Channel 4 News that the al-Qaeda-affiliated group, Boko Haram, has threatened to kill the remaining hostages if there is any attempt by the Nigerian military to rescue the girls. Meanwhile in the capital Abuja, the Nigerian government is coming under intense public pressure to secure the girls’ release.
On Wednesday, the government admitted for the first time that it had officially engaged the services of the negotiator. It declined to reveal his identity. He has told Channel 4 News that he wishes to remain anonymous for reasons of personal security.
The intermediary has, however, been in regular, direct contact with senior members of the Islamist insurgent group who claim to be holding the girls, for several days now. He has maintained links with Boko Haram for nearly a decade and has successfully negotiated past hostage releases.
It is not clear how many of the 220 teenagers remain in Nigeria, following reports that they had been split into smaller groups and some moved into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon and sold for a bride-price of less than £10 each, following their forcible conversion to Islam.