The Telegraph is reporting that Boko Haram has designated an Islamic cleric to negotiate with the Nigerian government on its behalf, and is compiling a list of terrorists they will demand the government release in exchange for the abducted Chibok girls.
According to the British newspaper, an insider stated that the leadership of the radical Islamist terror group has decided it will announce “a list of key militants that it wants released in exchange for its schoolgirl hostages.” The insider told the Telegraph that the cleric designated to negotiate with the Nigerian government will have “clear terms of reference, including a list of the members they want to release, and details of how they will free the girls.” They will likely demand one liberated terrorist for every liberated schoolgirl, and reports signal that only girls who have not already been fully converted to Boko Haram’s version of Islam will be eligible for trade.
The news of a potential trade is a change in tune for Boko Haram. Earlier this month, the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he demanded that all girls “get married” and abandon school. He insisted that “Allah says I should sell” young girls, suggesting that the sale of slave brides was part of the group’s ideological mission.
This week, after the release of a video in which Boko Haram paraded many of the kidnapped girls before a camera, praying to Allah and allegedly converted to radical Islam, news surfaced that the Nigerian government may be ready to explore potential negotiations to release the girls. According to the BBC, Cabinet Minister Tanimu Turaki announced that the Nigerian government would potentially speak to a representative of the organization, and that Shekau “should send people he trusted to meet the standing committee on reconciliation.”
It would be, he added, a test of Shekau’s sincerity in claiming that he was open to trading the girls for terrorists. The Nigerian government had previously indicated that they would not negotiate with terrorists, but the increasing difficulties of targeting the group without causing further bloodshed have changed the situation. An Amnesty International report released this week suggested the Nigerian government did not take the threat of Boko Haram seriously enough, allowing the group to grow to such a scale that the Chibok kidnapping could occur.
It is believed that the search for the missing girls will continue even through talks, should they occur, and that the list of terrorists Boko Haram wants released will be revealed as early as Wednesday. The United States is aiding the effort to locate the girls with air searches and strategy teams meant to work in conjunction with the Nigerian government.