Nigerian journalist wanted over Chibok girls

An image grab purportedly showing girls kidnapped by Boko Haram from Chibok, taken from a video released on Aug 14, 2016.
An image grab purportedly showing girls kidnapped by Boko Haram from Chibok, taken from a video released on Aug 14, 2016.PHOTO: AFP/BOKO HARAM

LAGOS (AFP) - Nigeria's army said on Monday (Aug 15) it wants to question three suspects, including a journalist, for allegedly concealing information on the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.

The announcement came just a day after Boko Haram released a new video purportedly showing some of the more than 200 girls who were seized by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014.

Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said local journalist Ahmad Salkida had been in contact with Boko Haram, as had Ahmed Bolori and Aisha Wakil, both activists familiar with the workings of the Islamist group.

"There is no doubt that these individuals have links with Boko Haram terrorists and have contacts with them," he said.

"They must therefore come forward and tell us where the group is keeping the Chibok girls and other abducted persons to enable us to rescue them."

Col Usman said the military would work with other security agencies to bring in the suspects if they fail to turn themselves in.

The mass kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014 provoked global outrage and brought unprecedented attention to Boko Haram and its bloody quest to create a fundamentalist state in northeastern Nigeria.

A total of 218 girls are still missing.

Col Usman said the authorities wanted to talk to the suspects over the video released on Sunday in which a masked man called on the government to free Boko Haram prisoners if it wants the girls to be rescued.

Mr Salkida is said to have high-level contacts among the group's leaders and is believed to have been involved in failed talks between Boko Haram and the government of former president Goodluck Jonathan.

The journalist said in his personal blog he would report to the authorities as soon as he returns to Nigeria, without giving his current whereabouts.

"In the coming days I will seek to get a flight to Abuja and avail myself to the army authorities," he said.

Mr Salkida said he had nothing to fear because he had not done anything outside the tenets of journalism.

"Clearly, my status as a Nigerian journalist who has reported extensively, painstakingly and consistently on the Boko Haram menace in the country since 2006 is an open book known to Nigerians and the international community," he said.

"I made personal sacrifices for the release of our Chibok daughters."

Sunday's video showed a group of about 40 girls in Islamic dress sitting or standing around a masked man armed with an assault rifle.

The man said some of the girls had been killed in air strikes by Nigerian armed forces, which have been intensifying their campaign against the jihadist group.

It was the latest release from Boko Haram's embattled chief Abubakar Shekau, who earlier this month denied claims he has been replaced as leader.

Throughout last year the military announced the rescue of hundreds of people, most of them women and children, who have been kidnapped by the Islamists.

But the missing schoolgirls were not among them, despite several unconfirmed sightings.

Boko Haram's seven-year insurgency has left some 20,000 people dead and forced at least 2.6 million others to flee their homes.