years after the horrific abduction of over 200 Chibok girls in Borno State, Nigeria, by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, a video of fifteen of the missing girls has finally surfaced.
The two-minute long clip obtained by CNN is said to have been sent by Boko Haram to negotiators as “proof of life.” In the video, fifteen teenage girls are lined up against what seems like a yellow wall. An off-camera voice can be heard asking each girl her name and where she was taken from.
According to CNN, the off-camera voice is recognized as that of Boko Haram’s spokesman Abul Qaqa. One of the girls in the video has been positively identified as the now 17-year old Saratu Ayuba.
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Her mother Rifkatu Ayuba desperately wails, “My Saratu” when she sees her in the video. “I felt like removing her from the screen,” Saratu’s mother tells the CNN reporter.
Saratu is seen wearing a purple abaya with a brown headscarf covering her hair. Together with other 14 girls, Saratu stares into the camera as she says her name and explains that she was taken from Chibok Government Secondary School.
Appeal to Nigerian Government
The video is believed to have been recorded in December 2015 as part of negotiations between the militant group and the Nigerian government. CNN says it exclusively obtained the clip from someone keen on giving the girls’ relatives a glimmer of hope and as a sign that some of the girls are still alive.
According to CNN, the informant also hopes the video will motivate the Nigerian government to hasten the rescue process.
Save for the occasional hesitation as they answer questions from the off-camera voice, the fifteen girls do not show any obvious signs of abuse.
At the end of the video, one of the girls identified as Naomi Zakaria makes what appears to be a scripted appeal to the government, saying:
“I am speaking on 25 December 2015, on behalf of the all the Chibok girls and are all well.”
While stressing the word “all,” the girl uses a tone that seems to suggest that the 15 girls seen in the video were chosen to represent the entire group.
Dozens of Boko Haram militants are reported to have stormed Chibok Secondary School on the night of 15 April 2014 as the students slept. The kidnappers engaged security officers stationed at the school before herding more than 200 girls onto vehicles.
The gunmen then torched homes in Borno State before fleeing with the girls. However, a number of girls managed to escape the abduction.
According to one of the girls who managed to escaped, one of the vehicles broke down along the way, and as the gunmen tried to fix it, some girls managed to escape.
“Some of us jumped out of the vehicles and ran into the bush. We later found our way back to Chibok,” she narrated.
Since the abduction, numerous efforts to save the girls have been made, including the #BringBackOurGirls online campaign that attracted worldwide pleas, even from world’s top leaders including US First Lady Michelle Obama. After the suicide bomber in Cameroon falsely claimed to be a Chibok survivor, this video offers the first hope in a long time to the families of the missing girls.