The leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram said in a video Monday that he would free more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls in exchange for the release of militant prisoners.
In a recording obtained by Agence France-Presse, Abubakar Shekau claimed the girls had been converted to Islam.
Dozens of girls were shown wearing full veils and praying in the video, whose contents could not immediately be independently verified by NBC News.
If genuine, the video would be the first confirmation that many of the missing students remain alive.
“These girls have become Muslims,” Shekau said in the 17-minute recording. “We will never release them until after you release our brethren.”
In one part of the recording, the girls recite “Al-Fatiha” — the first chapter of the Quran — in Arabic. “Al-Fatiha,” which comprises seven verses, is one of the first prayers taught to those learning Islam.
AFP declined to release a word-for-word translation of the girls’ comments because they were being held as hostages.