The leader of Nigerian Islamist terror group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has vowed to sell the more-than-200 Nigerian schoolgirls his group abducted “on the market,” insisting in a new video that “Allah says” the girls should be sold and married off at ages as young as nine.
According to Agence France-Presse, who first obtained the video, a man believed to be Shekau appears dressed in combat gear and assumes responsibility for the mass kidnappings. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” he declares, “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.” Shekau also commands girls to “go and get married,” and insists that he will “marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine.” He adds that the girls are currently held as “slaves.”
Shekau’s declarations follow the news, obtained by family members that have created vigilante groups following the terrorists into forests they control, that Boko Haram has been conducting “mass weddings” with the girls, forcing them to cook and forcing the Christian girls to convert to Islam. The price of a kidnapped girl for those seeking to marry them away from Boko Haram was reported as $12.
The relatives of the girls, who were kidnapped during a physics exam from the town of Chibok, have organized protests against the government, alleging that they have done very little to save the girls, and that those that have returned home safely escaped of their own volition. The leader of one organized protest was arrested this week, according to reports, though little indication has been given as to what crime she is being charged with.
Governors from both the mostly Christian south and mostly Muslim north of the country have conducted meetings to discuss the handling of Boko Haram, with President Goodluck Jonathan vowing to save the missing girls. This weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry added his voice to those calling for a release of the girls. “We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice,” he said, though he did not specify what kind of aid the United States would provide to help the Nigerian government.
Nigerian government officials are increasingly worried that Boko Haram has become an international threat. A BBC report last month found that Boko Haram has been bribing teenagers in Niger to help orchestrate acts of terror and theft for them in exchange for money, exploiting their poverty to convince them to engage in criminal activity despite their lack of adherence to the terror group’s ideology.