The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month, the French news agency AFP reported, citing a video it had obtained.
“I abducted your girls,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in the video, according to AFP. It did not immediately give further details.
Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girl secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, then packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.
The brazenness and sheer brutality of the school attack has shocked Nigerians, who had been growing accustomed to hearing about atrocities in an increasingly bloody five-year-old Islamist insurgency in the north.
Boko Haram, now seen as the main security threat to Africa's leading energy producer, is growing bolder and extending its reach.
The kidnapping occurred the same day as a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, that killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja and marked the first attack on the capital in two years.
The militants repeated that attack a week later in almost exactly the same spot, killing 19 people and wounding 34 in the suburb of Nyanya.
The girls' abductions have been hugely embarrassing for the government and threaten to distract attention from its first hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa, this week.
The apparent powerlessness of the military to prevent the attack or find the girls in three weeks has triggered anger and protests in the northeast and in Abuja.
On Sunday, authorities arrested a leader of a protest last week in Abuja that had called on them to do more to find the girls. The arrest has further fuelled outrage against the security forces.
In a televised “media chat” late on Sunday, President Jonathan pledged that the girls would soon be found and released, but also admitted he had no clue where they were. (Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Kevin Liffey)