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Boko Haram, Nigeria’s very own jihadi menace, has announced that it is willing to release the 219 schoolgirls it kidnapped two years ago for a $56 million ransom. The group passed on the message through back channels to Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, who has said he is willing to negotiate with the terrorist organisation during last year’s presidential campaign.
Previously, Boko Haram agreed to release the schoolgirls in exchange for the release of its own fighters, the Sunday Telegraph reports. The deal was negotiated with the aid of the Red Cross, but fell through as Nigeria’s government claimed the list provided by Boko Haram did not contain the members of the group held in Nigeria’s jails.
The kidnapped schoolgirls were taken on 14 April 2014 from the Nigerian town of Chibok. Their case received worldwide attention and recognition, including from President Obama and his wife, and sparked a campaign under the slogan #BringBackOurGirls. Then-president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, announced several times that the country’s armed forces were close to releasing the kidnapped girls, but rescue efforts failed repeatedly.
The Nigerian military has recently made significant strides in its fight against Boko Haram, largely due to the country’s neighbours’ – Cameroon, Chad, and Niger – involvement in the fight.
More than 1,000 women and children held by Boko Haram have been released in recent months, as well as gains were made in driving the organisation out of territory it has previously made.
One source told the Telegraph that “the ransom demand has split the government.” The sides are entrenched in their position, one eager to resolve the crisis and gain the release of the Chibok girls, while the other fear that it would allow Boko Haram to recruit more fighters.