Boko Haram appears to have released a video purporting to show dozens of the 276 girls who were kidnapped from the Nigerian town of Chibok more than two years ago. The video was released on social media by a Nigerian journalist who is in contact with a faction of Boko Haram that split from the main Islamist militant group after its leader was removed by the Islamic State.
In the video, one girl, identified by the news agency Reuters as Maina Yakubu, makes a plea for help and says that recent Nigerian airstrikes have killed some of the girls.
"Oh you, my people and our parents, you just have to please come to our rescue: We are suffering here, the aircraft has come to bombard us and killed many of us. Some are wounded. Every day we are in pains and suffering, so are our babies. Some of our husbands that we married also are injured, some dead. No one cares for us," she says, according to the Associated Press.
"Please go and beg the government of Nigeria to release the members of our abductors so that they, too, can free us to let us come home. We are really suffering, there is no food to eat, no good water to drink here."
Nigeria’s air force has carried out near-daily strikes on Boko Haram camps in the country's north. They accompany ground raids that authorities say have freed thousands of captives, though none of the Chibok girls, who are thought to be held deep in a forested area.
Some of the girls in the video are shown holding babies. The girl who speaks in the video says that 40 of the girls have been "married."
“If our members in detention are not freed, let the government and parents of the Chibok girls know that they will never find these girls again,” a Boko Haram fighter says later in the video. He portrays the government as the villain and says his group is keen on a prisoner swap — the girls for Boko Haram fighters being held in Nigerian jails.
Nigerian Information Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed released a statement indicating that his government thinks that the recent rift in Boko Haram leadership may have provoked the release of the video.
''We are on top of the situation," he said. "But we are being extremely careful because the situation has been compounded by the split in the leadership of Boko Haram. We are also being guided by the need to ensure the safety of the girls."
Recent "proof of life" videos such as this one have reinvigorated groups pressuring the Nigerian government to engineer the girls' release.
Earlier this year, President Muhammadu Buhari said, "I assure you that I go to bed and wake up every day with the Chibok girls on my mind." But efforts to free, let alone locate, the girls have proved futile, even as thousands of other Boko Haram prisoners have been released and most of the land occupied by the group has been retaken.
Since it started staging major attacks seven years ago, Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2.2 million from their homes in Nigeria and neighboring countries.