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Nigerian group threatens to sell kidnapped girls

Nigeria's Islamic extremist leader is threatening to sell the 276 schoolgirls his terror group abducted three weeks ago.
May 5, 2014 4:26:58 PM PDT
It has been three weeks since as many as 300 schoolgirls were abducted in the middle of the night from their boarding school in Nigeria. An Islamic extremist leader is now threatening to sell them off in a new videotape received Monday.

The mass abduction and the military's failure to rescue the girls and young women have ignited national outrage with demonstrations in major cities.

In Los Angeles, a protest was held at Freedom Square in the Crenshaw District Monday calling for help in the girls' release. Los Angeles is home to one of the largest populations of Nigerians in the United States.

"These girls are our daughters, they are our sisters, and they're people, so we care about people regardless of wherever they are in the world," said rally organizer Funmilola Fagbamila.

Parents in Nigeria are frustrated by their government's slow response and are now reaching out to the international community.

The U.S. State Department lists the militants as a terror group. They call themselves Boku Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden." It aims to stomp out education for girls.

The violence has a chilling effect on efforts to bring democracy to the nation, according to L.A. resident Stephanie Ikes, who has family in Nigeria.

"I stand on behalf of the women, I stand on behalf of youths, we do want the U.S. to get involved because we do not have the ability of what it takes to save these girls," said Ikes.

The Carson-based publisher of an African news magazine says the abduction is a strike to destablize the government as it heads toward national elections. At the same time, he says the struggling government wants to show that it can handle the crisis without foreign help, but U.S. help, he says, is precisely what is needed.

"We don't have drones, we don't have effective military patrols and all that, our military is really incapacitated," said Chike Nweke of the Carson Public Relations Commission.

The kidnappings have sparked a movement on social media, and the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has gone viral. Many people, including Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistan girl shot by the Taliban for advocating for education for girls, are calling for the world to take action.

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boku Haram militants announced Monday he will sell the girls. He described the girls as "slaves" and said, "By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace," speaking in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.

The hourlong video starts with fighters lifting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great."

It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors - who paid a nominal bride price of $12 - and that others have been carried into neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Those reports could not be verified.

Nigeria's police have said more than 300 girls were abducted. Of that number, 276 remain in captivity and 53 escaped.

According to federal law enforcement officials, the FBI stands ready to offer assistance. The Nigerian government, however, has not requested help from the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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