Nigerian terrorists Boko Haram have reportedly demanded nearly £40m to return the 219 missing Chibok girls on the eve of the two-year anniversary of their kidnapping. The Islamic State (Isis) linked extremists took 276 female students hostage from a boarding school in Chibok, northern Nigeria, on 14 April 2014.
The brutal fundamentalist Islamic group has terrorised Nigeria for 14 years and has a reputation for high-profile kidnappings, bombings, massacres and drug-running. Despite their reputations some of the captives were able to escape leaving 219 still held in an unknown location.
A social media campaign, #bringbackourgirls, was set up to put pressure on the Nigerian military to act. The Nigerian armed forces have been criticised for not attacking a camp nearby in the weeks after the kidnap – but they argued this could have resulted in some of the girls being killed.
Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau had initially said he wanted to make a deal to release the girls in exchange for several jailed jihadists. But the Nigerian state said they did not have the offenders in custody.
An anonymous source told the Sunday Telegraph that senior jihadists secretly approached the Nigerian government in a new bid to negotiate the release of the Chibok girls. The newspaper said that the group, founded in 2002, want 10bn naira (£36m) to secure their release.
Campaigners believe that the girls may have been divided into small groups and taken to Islamic militant-held areas such as the Sambisia forest, which covers an area three times the size of Wales. Shehu Sani, a Nigerian senator and civil rights activist involved in the peace talks said: "I think they are probably in clusters rather than all in one place, but probably not far from each other. Boko Haram knows they are a prized catch."
Last month Western governments were accused of knowing where the girls were held, but did not act as they felt powerless to rescue them. According to Dr Andrew Pocock, former British high commissioner to Nigeria, some of the girls were located by British and American surveillance, yet nothing was done. The information was passed on to the Nigerians but they did not request for help.