Jihadis from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked Boko Haram killed a 16-year-old Christian schoolgirl in captivity for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam, a kidnapped aid worker claimed in a video released this week.
Grace Taku, an aid worker from the non-governmental organization (NGO) Action Against Hunger (ACF), blamed the death of the schoolgirl — Leah Sharibu — and another captive identified only as “Alice” on the Nigerian government’s failure to fight for her release. Taku herself was kidnapped along with five other ACF workers on July 18.
She also held the Nigerian government responsible for the deaths of two Red Cross workers — identified only as Hauwa and Kabura — and a different aid worker, Alice.
Taku’s comments were captured on a nearly three-minute video, which reportedly disseminated online Wednesday by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a breakaway Boko Haram faction.
The footage purportedly shows Taku imploring her employer, the prominent Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and the Nigerian government to “do something” to secure their release and prevent them from suffering the same lethal fate as some of the captives, according to a transcript of the video carried by Nigeria’s Premium Times.
After highlighting the death of the two Red Cross workers, Taku beseeched, fighting to hold back her tears:
Do something to see that we are released. … I am begging on behalf of all of us here that please Nigeria should not allow such [death] to happen to us. And it also happen again with Leah [Sharibu] and Alice – because Nigeria could not do anything about them they were not released; they were also killed.
Some analysts have questioned the claim that Sharibu is dead, urging caution about jumping to conclusions.
Responding to the video in a statement issued this week, the anti-hunger NGO “strongly” demanded that ISWAP free the six aid workers, noting that they appear to be in “good health condition.”
Taku stressed she was the only Christian among the six kidnapped aid workers, suggesting she is more vulnerable. Although Muslims make up the majority of the population of Nigeria, Christians make up the largest minority group in the country. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous democracy, is split in half nearly even between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north.
Boko Haram is known for kidnapping Christian girls and forcing them to convert to Islam, particularly by threatening rape and following through. On February 19, 2018, ISWAP kidnapped 110 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria’s Dapchi region, including Sharibu. The jihadi group refused to release Sharibu because the girl refused to renounce her Christian faith in favor of Islam.
In March, ISWAP terrorists reportedly released 104 of the girls after forcing them to recite the shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith, and reaching an agreement with the African country’s military that included withdrawing Nigerian forces.
Sharibu remained a prisoner, but the other five died during the release operation.
The Buhari administration denies accusations that it paid a ransom to secure the release of the Dapchi girls.
Olapade Agoro, the chairman of an opposition party in Nigeria, threatened to take President Buhari to the International Criminal Court in The Hague if his government did not liberate Sharibu, USA Today noted.
Agoro accused the Fulani President Buhari of favoring fellow Muslims when he negotiated the release of the Dapchi girls.
In audio that surfaced in August 2018, Sharibu supplicated the Nigerian government, “Treat me with compassion, I am calling on the government, particularly, the President to pity me and get me out of this serious situation.”
The captive’s father, Nathan Sharibu, reportedly confirmed his daughter’s voice in the clip.
Under Buhari, Nigeria has intensified de-radicalization and re-integration initiative at prisons and other state-run facilities that allow jihadis to repent, surrender, and return to society “rehabilitated.”
The government already released hundreds of “repentant” Boko Haram jihadis. Hundreds more are undergoing the program.
Other sectarian groups like the Muslim Fulani herdsmen, who primarily terrorize Christian farmers, killed 23,220 people, data obtained by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) showed as of last month.
Boko Haram remained the deadliest terrorist group in Nigeria, closely trailed by Muslim Fulani jihadis, according to CFR.
The human rights Christian group Jubilee Campaign believes Fulani attacks in Nigeria already amount to “genocide.”
In December 2018, Nigerian Bishop Benjamin Argak Kwashi told Breitbart News Fulani herdsmen represent the top terrorist threat facing Christians in Nigeria.
ISWAP is a splinter group of Boko Haram that swore allegiance in 2016 to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.