It’s been five months since 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. This act of violence spurred the Bring Back Our Girls hashtag and brought attention to an issue that may have been overlooked by the mainstream media.
While it might seem that the world has forgotten about the missing girls, a source has told CNN that Nigerian government officials and the Committee of the Red Cross have had talks with Boko Haram about releasing the girls in exchange for imprisoned Haram members.
According to the source, the officials met four times in mid-August with two senior members of Boko Haram in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
The swap would involve the release of 30 Boko Haram commanders in the custody of the Nigerian government, according to the source, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Boko Haram submitted a list with the names of 30 members who were either convicted or awaiting trial on terror offenses.
“The two Boko Haram negotiators assured the ICRC and government negotiators that the girls were never raped, were never used as sex slaves and were never sexually assaulted,” said the source, who attended the discussions.
Boko Haram has expressed a willingness for a swap with the ICRC at an undisclosed location, according to the source. But there was disagreement on some terms, including the number of girls involved in the swap.
Boko Haram had insisted on an even swap — 30 girls for the 30 commanders — but the government refused, according to the source.
“They were only ready to release one to one, which the government was not going to accept,” the source said.
However, information emerged on Monday that Nigerian security forces are investigating reports that Abubakar Shekau, the notorious leader of the Boko Haram extremist group waging an Islamist insurgency in the country’s north, has been killed in fighting.
The image shows a man lying on the ground, apparently with a wound to his head. The bearded individual bears a close resemblance to Shekau as seen in the many video appearances in which he threatens the Nigerian government and boasts of the strength of the Islamist group which has brought mayhem and bloodshed to a large swathe of the north.
The Cameroonian military posted the picture to social media with no explanation as to the circumstances of the alleged killing. The country’s armed forces have been increasingly engaging with Boko Haram along its border as the group makes gains in the state of Borno, north-eastern Nigeria.
This is not the first time that Shekau has reported to have been killed and experts are questioning the veracity of the statements. Meanwhile the whereabouts and well-being of the kidnapped girls still remain in question. Violence rages on, negotiations may or may not be happening, and our girls are still not home.