By Jueseppi B.
From The New York Times:
DAKAR, Senegal — In a video message apparently made by the leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls nearly three weeks ago, called them slaves and threatened to “sell them in the market, by Allah.”
“Western education should end,” Mr. Shekau said in the 57-minute video, speaking in Hausa and Arabic. “Girls, you should go and get married.” The Islamist leader also warned that he would “give their hands in marriage because they are our slaves. We would marry them out at the age of 9. We would marry them out at the age of 12.”
The message was received by news agencies in Nigeria on Monday and is similar to previous videos purportedly from Boko Haram. It is the first time the group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, which have gripped Nigeria, ignited a rareantigovernment protest movement and embarrassed the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who has so far been unable to rescue any of the teenage girls. They were abducted from their school in a remote corner of northeastern Nigeria on April 14.By some counts 276 remain missing.
The kidnappings are the latest assault by Boko Haram, which has committed dozens of massacres of civilians in its five-year insurgency in Nigeria’s north with the aim of destabilizing and ultimately overthrowing the Nigerian government. Earlier this year, for instance, more than 50 teenage boys were slaughtered — some burned alive — at a government school in the north. That attack, like many others, was quickly forgotten in Nigeria and barely noticed outside of it.
But the kidnappings of the girls have attracted rare international attention, with foreign governments weighing in.
Obama administration officials said on Monday that the United States had offered intelligence and information sharing to the Nigerian authorities, although they declined to specify what federal agency or agencies were helping to locate the missing girls. Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters at a daily briefing that American officials had indications that many of the girls had “likely been moved out of the country to neighboring countries at this point.” She declined to specify which countries.
Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said that President Obama had been briefed several times on the abductions and that the State Department had been “in regular touch with the Nigerian government about what we might do to help support its efforts to find and free these young women.”
The government’s helplessness so far — the army first claimed to have rescued the girls, then retracted the claim — has shaken Mr. Jonathan’s administration, and the president has spoken of reaching out to other governments, including the United States, for help, a rare admission of incapacity for a Nigerian leader.
In a vivid demonstration of how sensitive the issue has become for the government, two women protesting its response to the kidnappings were arrested Monday after a meeting in Abuja, the capital, with the wife of the president, according to leaders of the protest movement. The country is preparing to host a major economic summit meeting this week, making the unresolved kidnappings all the more embarrassing for officials there.
The leader of Nigeria’s terrorist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, said his group was fighting to reinstate a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.
Last week, protesters marched on the country’s National Assembly in Abuja, and it was leaders of those marches who apparently angered Patience Jonathan, the wife of the president.
Mrs. Jonathan had invited mothers of the abducted girls to come to Abuja from Chibok, the remote northeastern town where the girls were seized, according to Hadiza Bala Usman, the organizer of the protests. But the “timeline was too short,” Ms. Usman said — there are no flights, and Chibok is several days’ journey by road.
The mothers from Chibok “delegated the responsibility” of meeting with Mrs. Jonathan to neighbors who were already in Abuja. But when the president’s wife discovered that the women with whom she met were not mothers of the missing girls, she became enraged, according to Ms. Usman and Pogu Bitrus, a Chibok official who knows both women.
Mrs. Jonathan told the women, “You lied to us by saying you are a mother,” according to Ms. Usman. “Because of that we are detaining you.”
Mr. Bitrus said that Mrs. Jonathan “ordered that they be arrested for impersonation.”
A spokesman for the president, Reuben Abati, could not be reached Monday. A spokesman for Mrs. Jonathan was quoted in news reports as denying that anybody had been arrested.
The message from the Boko Haram leader once again highlighted the extent to which secular, Western-style schools are a principal target of the group, whose name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden,” in an amalgam of pidgin English, Arabic and Hausa, one of the most commonly spoken languages in Africa. Mr. Shekau emphasized that the girls were taken because they were attending such a school.
“Western education is sin, it is forbidden, women must go and marry,” he said in the video message. Mr. Shekau also tried to justify the abduction of the girls by noting that Boko Haram members remain imprisoned in Nigeria.