CAIRO: Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar urged the Nigerian group Boko Haram Tuesday to free more than 200 schoolgirls it kidnapped and has threatened to sell into slavery.
Al-Azhar, which runs the main Islamic university in the region, said harming the girls “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles.”
It called “for the immediate release” of the girls, abducted on April 14 in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state.
Abubakar Shekau, who leads the group that has killed thousands in a five-year uprising, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
In a video message obtained by AFP on Monday, Shekau said the group was holding the girls as “slaves” and would “sell (them) in the market.”
A total of 276 girls were kidnapped when Boko Haram stormed their school under the cover of darkness and loaded them onto trucks. Some managed to escape, but more than 220 girls are still being held, according to police.
Global outrage, initially slow to emerge, has been building, including calls by US senators for Washington to intervene.
8 more girls kidnapped
In Kano, Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria’s embattled northeast, residents said on Tuesday, after the extremist group’s leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month.
“They moved door to door looking for girls,” said Abdullahi Sani, referring to the late Sunday attack in the village of Warabe, Borno state. “They forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15.” Sani, a Warabe resident, spoke to AFP by phone from Gwoza, a town 10 kilometers (six miles) away where he and others fled after the attack, which he blamed on Boko Haram.
He said the attackers did not kill anyone, which was “surprising,” and suggested that abducting girls was the motive for the attack.
The gunmen torched parts of the village, he said.
Another Warabe resident who also fled to Gwoza, Peter Gambo, confirmed Sani’s account of the attack and said the military had not yet provided any protection.
In Geneva, The United Nations warned Islamist Boko Haram militants on Tuesday that there was no statute of limitations if they carried out their leader’s threat to sell more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped last month.
“We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law. These can under certain circumstances constitute crimes against humanity,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.