Published On : Friday, April 15 2016
Boko Haram has released a new video showing some of the 200 schoolgirls that it kidnapped from the town of Chibok in northeast Nigeria exactly two years ago.
The video - the existence of which was first revealed by the Telegraph last weekend - shows 15 of the 219 girls, dressed in black hijabs and talking to an off-screen cameraman.
The video is the first concrete indication that at least some the girls are still alive since a previous video released publicly by Boko Haram in May 2014, which showed more than 100 of them were shown huddled under trees in the Nigerian bush.
Despite a celebrity-backed social media campaign to highlight their plight, the Nigerian government has been unable to secure their release.
When an unidentified cameraman questions them, they confirm that they are taken from the Chibok Government Secondary school, and claim that they have not been mistreated.
Parents of some of the missing children have been shown the video by CNN, with one mother, Rikfatu Ayuba, fighting back tears when she recognised her 17-year-old daughter, Sarutu, in the footage. "If I could, I would have removed her from the screen," she said.
Another parent broke down crying after seeing that the video did not feature her daughter.
The existence of the video was first disclosed by The Telegraph last weekend, with sources close to Boko Haram saying that it had been produced about three months ago.
They also said that 15 girls featured in it, and that none appeared to show any signs of mistreatment. The same sources claimed that a few weeks before the production of the video, Boko Haram had told Nigerian government intermediaries that it wanted a $50m ransom for the girls.
The government has denied that any such ransom demand has been made, and has pointed out that the Chibok case is just one of many mass Boko Haram kidnappings that it is having to deal with.
As The Telegraph reveals today, other mass child abductions by Boko Haram - such as one in the town of Damasak last year - have received virtually no attention.
As the camera focuses in on each of hostage, the cameraman asks them: "What's your name? Was that your name at school? Where were you taken from?"
At the end, one child, named as Naomi Zakaria, makes what appears to a scripted appeal to the Nigerian authorities for help. She adds that she is speaking on Christmas Day of last year.
"I am speaking on 25 December 2015, on behalf of the all the Chibok girls and we are all well," she says, stressing the word "all." Her words appear to be intended to convoy that the 15 girls have been nominated as representatives of the entire group.
But he declined to comment directly on the state of talks with Boko Haram, which has previously said it would release the girls only in exchange for captured fighters in Nigerian prisons.
"There are ongoing talks. We cannot ignore leads but of course many of these investigations cannot be disclosed openly because it could also endanger the negotiations," the minister added.
According to the AFP news agency, members of Boko Haram made contact with the government in January, requesting talks about a possible prisoner swap.
The militants then sent five still photographs of some of the girls, also wearing black hijabs, who were identified by some parents as being among those kidnapped from Chibok.
The government then requested more concrete proof in the form of a video, which was then sent.
Elsewhere in Nigeria, protest marches were planned as the culmination of a week-long series of events organised by the #BringBackOurGirls movement to renew calls for the girls' release.
The Chibok girls are the most high-profile victims of the brutal insurgency, which has seen Boko Haram repeatedly use kidnapping as a weapon in a war that has killed some 20,000 people since 2009.
Human rights groups estimate that several thousand women and young girls have been seized since the start of the insurgency, and forced to become sex slaves and suicide bombers.
It has been widely speculated that the Chibok girls have been split up into different groups to make it harder for the Nigerian government to rescue them.