Proof of Life For Nigeria’s Kidnapped Girls

A video obtained by CNN seems to show 15 of the girls kidnapped from Chibok, Nigeria, alive as of December 2015.

Protestors in Lagos, Nigeria, demand back their girls.  (Akintunde Akinleye / Reuters)

A video obtained by CNN appears to shows some of the remaining kidnapped Nigerian girls who were taken by Boko Haram two years ago from a school in the country’s northeastern region. It’s the first video evidence that some of the girls may still be alive since their abduction from the town of Chibok.

“I am speaking on 25 December 2015, on behalf of all the Chibok girls and we are all well,” one of the girls says into the camera.

Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls in April 2014, and the two-minute video claims to show 15 of those girls still alive. Someone close to the negotiations for their rescue handed the video to CNN, the broadcaster reported, and its digital marking reportedly dates it to last Christmas. The video shows the girls in two lines against beige-painted cement wall, their bodies covered entirely with black hijabs except for their faces. A voice off camera asks them their names, and from where they were taken. The Nigerian government told CNN it has a copy of the video, but cannot confirm its authenticity. The country’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, told CNN the government had concerns the girls seemed too young, and that they’d not aged as much as expected, given their two years in captivity.

The kidnapping two years ago caused an international plea for their release, with regular protests in Nigeria. Relatives and critics condemned then president, Goodluck Jonathan, for his slow response. Lately, the Nigerian military––with the help of other nations, including the U.S.––has fought Boko Haram, and it’s believed the Islamist group is growing weaker. But that hasn’t deterred its fighters from further attacks.

A report released Tuesday, on the second anniversary the of Chibok girls’ kidnapping, noted that suicide attacks by Boko Haram had climbed from 32 in 2014, to 151 last year; many of them were carried out by children and young girls. Boko Haram operates in Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon, and its violence is blamed for the mass displacement of 2.3 million people.

Parents of the Chibok girls and many more protesters had planned demonstrations this week in the capital of Nigeria, Abuja, hoping to pressure the government to act more urgently to fight for the girls’ return. But Boko Haram has said it will only release the girls in exchange for its imprisoned fighters.

Some of the mothers CNN showed the video to recognized their daughters. One of the people CNN showed the video to was a young girl, a classmate who’d left the school early the day Boko Haram came. She watched the video and picked out several of her friends, CNN reported. In all, there are more than 200 girls still missing.  Since they disappeared, many of the girls were feared dead, and some reports have said Boko Haram has brainwashed them to fight and kill alongside the terrorist group. This video is the first evidence that at least some may still be alive.