Boko Haram is seeking a ransom of nearly $75 million for the release of the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped from the Nigerian town of Chibok two years ago, sources close to the group have reported.
The terror sect is thought to have issued the demand during secret contacts with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has said he is willing to negotiate for the girls’ freedom.
The group’s leader, Abubakr Shekau, had previously demanded the release of jailed comrades in exchange for the girls. But a deal along those lines – brokered by the Red Cross – fell through after Nigerian prison officials said that commanders on a list given to them by Boko Haram were not in their custody.
Details of the new ransom request emerged ahead of the second anniversary of the girls kidnapping on the night of 14 April 2014, when they were abducted by Boko Haram gunmen posing as soldiers.
The Nigerian military has made significant gains against Boko Haram in the last 18 months, raiding a number of the sect’s camps in Nigeria’s vast Sambisa forest, and freeing at least 1,000 women and children taken in other mass abductions.
Yet in none of the raids have any rescued prisoners or captured fighters been able to give any convincing accounts of meeting or seeing any of the Chibok girls.
This indicates they are still being kept well away from other captives, and that their kidnappers see them as having huge symbolic value as hostages – thanks partly to the global attention the kidnappings received.
Recently, Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters launched “Operation Safe Corridor,” a program to rehabilitate repentant Boko Haram fighters through camps where they will be offered jobs and training in return for undergoing biometric profiling.
The military said some 800 fighters had already signed up for the program, and that other camps would open across north-east Nigeria in coming months.
Source: The Sunday Telegraph