Africa
3:02 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Extremist Group Claims Credit For Mass Kidnapping In Nigeria

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 5:35 pm

Nigerian Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram claimed credit for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls. The girls remain missing, and parents are pressing the government to find and bring them home. The president's wife has ordered the arrest of the parent who is leading the protests demanding government action.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

It's more than three weeks since some 250 girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria. About 50 of them escaped but virtually nothing has been heard about the rest of the girls. Their relatives and many Nigerians are demanding that the military and the government do more. Today, the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram claimed that it was behind the mass abduction.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has more.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Despite pressure from relatives of the missing girls and rising public anger, fueled by the Twitter campaign hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, it took President Goodluck Jonathan more than two weeks to speak out about the abducted teens. He took to national radio and television on Sunday, to promise that his government is working to find and safely bring the girls home. Nigeria's leader called for international help, including from the U.S.

PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN: Wherever these girls are we will surely get them out. One good thing is that there is no story that any of them has been hurt or dead.

QUIST-ARCTON: The girls were taken from their school dorms late at night on April 14th. Today, the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility. In a video obtained by journalists, the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, calls the teens slaves.

ABUBAKAR SHEKAU: (Foreign language spoken)

(LAUGHTER)

SHEKAU: (Foreign language spoken)

(LAUGHTER)

QUIST-ARCTON: Speaking Hausa, Shekau taunts, I abducted your girls. He says, by Allah, I will sell them in the market.

It wasn't clear whether the video was recorded before reports that the schoolgirls had been sold off as, quote, "wives" to militant fighters for as little as $12, and that some had been spirited across Nigeria's borders.

In the latest bitter twist, it's been reported that the first lady ordered the detention of protest campaigners - a claim her office vehemently denies. Patience Jonathan is reported to have accused the activists of fabricating the mass abduction to give her husband a bad name.

But the fact that staggers Nigerians most is the acknowledgement by the military, and the president that they simply do not know where the missing girls are.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.