A militant Islamist group has claimed for the first time that it was behind the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian students, saying in a video obtained by the AFP news agency that it planned to "sell" the girls.
The students, teenaged girls who were in class for a physics exam, were seized April 14 from their school in Chibok, in northern Nigeria. The mass kidnapping - and the Nigerian government's false claims about a rescue and other missteps in the case -- triggered protests in Nigeria and outrage around the world. Social media activists created the hashtags #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters to raise awareness and pressure the government in Lagos.
Boko Haram, an al Qaida-style extremist group behind previous student attacks including the killing of 59 schoolboys, was suspected of carrying out the abduction, though confirmation was elusive until Monday's AFP report:
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vowed to sell hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped in northern Nigeria three weeks ago, in a new video obtained on Monday by AFP.
"I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah," he said, after reports that some of the 223 girls still missing may have been sold as brides across Nigeria's border with Chad and Cameroon for as little as $12.
Shekau added that the abduction had caused outrage "because we are holding people (as) slaves".
Boko Haram has killed thousands since 2009. The State Department last year designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization and in fiscal year 2012 provided more than $20 million in security assistance to help the Nigerian government's counterterrorism and military efforts.