Nigeria said the leadership fallout in Boko Haram complicates efforts to return the Chibok schoolgirls that the Islamist militants abducted more than two years ago.
Boko Haram’s disputed leader Abubakar Shekau last week rejected Islamic State’s appointment of a new leader for the group. That complicates rescue efforts for the more than 200 girls taken from a school in the northeastern part of the country in April 2014, according to Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed.
“We are on top of the situation but we are being extremely careful because the situation has been compounded by the split in the leadership of Boko Haram,” Mohammed said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday. “We are also being guided by the need to ensure the safety of the girls. We want to be doubly sure that those we are in touch with are who they claim to be.”
Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign since 2009 to impose its version of Islamic law in Africa’s most populous country of about 180 million people. From northeastern Nigeria, their attacks have spread to neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
The group released a video Sunday, claiming that Nigerian air strikes killed some of the Chibok schoolgirls. A suspected victim is seen in the video, posted on YouTube, pleading for authorities to release detained militants in exchange for the freedom of the girls.
An unidentified man wearing camouflage gear is heard on the video saying the group is ready to swap the girls for prisoners held in Lagos, Abuja and Maiduguri, among others.