– Open to talks –
On Monday, Boko Haram released a video purporting to show about 130 of them and claimed they had all converted to Islam. All of the girls were later identified as attending the school in Chibok.
The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, suggested they could be freed in a prisoner exchange and on Tuesday, special duties minister Taminu Turaki indicated that the government was open to talks.
“Nigeria has always been willing to dialogue with the insurgents,” Turaki, who last year headed a committee tasked with pursuing an amnesty pact with some of the group’s fighters, told AFP.
“We are willing to carry that dialogue on any issue, including the girls’ kidnap in Chibok, because certainly we are not going to say that (the abduction) is not an issue.”
Jonathan and his government have been widely criticised for their slow response to the kidnapping.
But they were forced to react in the face of a growing social media campaign that has won wide support across the world and contributed to international pressure.
Specialist US, British, French and Israeli teams have been sent to help in the search operation, which Nigeria’s military has said is concentrated on the Sambisa forest area of Borno state.
There are fears, though, that the girls may have been split into groups and taken into neighbouring Chad or Cameroon, from where Boko Haram has previously launched attacks and sought safe haven.