By Mark Ellis
A video purporting to show many of the 200 Christian girls kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram is a clever ruse designed to mislead, according to a story released by Baptist Press.
“They are not the same. They are not the girls abducted,” said Adeniyi Ojutiku, a Nigerian living in Raleigh, N.C., who co-founded Lift Up Now, a group that addresses political, economic and social challenges in Nigeria.
Boko Haram presented about 130 girls dressed in Muslim attire and reciting verses from the Quran in the video sent to Associated French Press (AFP). A man identifying himself as Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau offered the return of the girls in exchange for the release of hundreds of Boko Haram members imprisoned in Nigeria.
When the government shared copies of the video with the parents of the kidnapped teens, none of the parents could find their children in the video, Ojutiku learned from government officials.
Also, Boko Haram’s assertion that the girls depicted in the video recently converted to Islam does not appear credible, Ojutiku told Baptist Press.
“The people [in Borno] are saying that the recitation of the Quran by those girls does not depict people who are new to the faith of Islam,” Ojutiku said.
“From the recitation, there is indication that those groups of girls have been in Islam for a long time, because the inflection, the way they recite it … the intonation and all that, does not depict … people who are new to the Quran. The girls recite the chant with more fluidity, with [a] better grasp of the chant. And their voice inflections indicate that they are not new to that chant.”
The video was released as the search for the girls intensified. The U.S., among other nations helping Nigeria in the hunt for the girls, was flying “manned” missions over Nigeria Monday as part of the search, according to Baptist Press.
Most likely, the video is a scam by the extremists to mislead those searching for the girls, Ojutiku maintained.
“That video says nothing about the abducted girls, except for the fact it is propaganda,” Ojutiku told Baptist Press. “It is a lie to make the world believe that the girls are still together, and also to throw everybody off in terms of where they are, because people are looking at the vegetation. They are looking at the environment.”
U.S. officials have said there is no reason to question the video’s authenticity, but the situation is very fluid.
“Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday.
The U.S. sent a 30-member team to Nigeria last week to help rescue about 223 girls who were kidnapped from the Government Girls State School in Chibok, a town believed to be almost entirely Christian.