Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirl begs for freedom

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The father of a Nigerian schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram called for government to do more to secure her freedom after audio of her begging for help was released.

Leah Sharibu (15) was taken hostage with more than 100 girls in Dapchi in February, the largest mass abduction since Boko Haram took 220 girls from Chibok in 2014.

She was the only one not released when others were freed a month later – apparently because she refused to convert to Islam – the freed girls said in March.

Government was investigating the audio recording, circulated by local media and believed to be from Boko Haram.

It is likely a ploy by the militants for ransom money, according to analysts.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation could not independently verify its authenticity, but Sharibu’s father said he recognised her voice.
“Her mother collapsed and cried when she heard the audio, but me, I was happy because I did not think she was alive,” Nathan Sharibu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“People should help put pressure on the Nigerian government concerning her release,” he said.

Sharibu said no one in government had contacted him.

That the girl asks the president for help in the recording suggests the militants want to put public pressure on him, said Ryan Cummings, a security analyst for consultancy firm Signal Risk.
“This indicates there seems to be some form of negotiation ongoing between the state and the militants,” Cummings said.

Sometimes militants release similar “proof of life” videos of hostages when asking for ransom money, he added.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said on Twitter government was aware of the audio and would react in due course.
“For President Buhari, nothing will be spared in bringing all our girls home,” Shehu wrote. “He will not rest until all are freed.”

The Nigerian government said it did not pay ransom for the release of other Dapchi girls, returned home by the militants, seemingly unprompted, in March.



Nigeria is still haunted by the kidnapping of the Chibok girls in 2014. About 100 have been found or freed, but another 100 are still believed to be in captivity.