"The window of negotiation is still open," Minister of Special
Duties Tanimu Turaki told Reuters by telephone.
He was speaking a day after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau posted
a video offering to release the girls in exchange for prisoners held
by the government.
Senior officials say the government is exploring options and has
made no commitment to negotiations for the release of the girls, and
Turaki declined to comment on possible talks over the kidnapping
Instead, he referred to an amnesty committee that he heads, set up
by President Goodluck Jonathan last year to talk to the Boko Haram
militants behind a five-year-old insurgency.
The committee's initial six-month mandate expired without holding
direct talks with the rebels, though it has spoken to them through
proxies. It has since been replaced by a standing committee
empowered to conduct talks, officials said.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people since 2009 and
destabilized parts of northeast Nigeria, the country with Africa's
largest population and biggest economy.
The abductions have triggered a worldwide social media campaign
under the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, and prompted the
United States, Britain, France and Israel to offer help or send
experts to Nigeria.
The United States has sent military, law-enforcement and development
Two U.S. officials said on Tuesday a mix of manned and unmanned
American surveillance aircraft were being used to aid the search for
the missing girls. One U.S. official identified the drone as a
Global Hawk, which is a high-altitude, unmanned spy plane
manufactured by Northrop Grumman Corp.
The Boko Haram video showed more than 110 girls sitting on the
ground in a rural location, the first time they have been seen in
Although at least some of them are Christian, and Shekau described
them as "infidels", they were wearing full Islamic veils and singing
and chanting Muslim prayers.
It was not clear when or where the video was filmed or whether
Shekau, who sat in front of a green backdrop holding an AK-47 during
part of the video, was in the same location as the girls.
Those shown were among 276 abducted on April 14 from a secondary
school in the village of Chibok, Borno state, in a sparsely
populated region near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Some escaped but about 200 are still missing. The group initially
threatened to sell them into slavery.
[to top of second column]
STATE OF EMERGENCY
Jonathan returned to Abuja on Tuesday from the Congo Republic, where
he held talks with President Denis Sassou ahead of a regional summit
in Paris on Saturday.
He asked parliament on Tuesday for a six-month extension of a state
of emergency in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe
due to persistent attacks by Boko Haram. The emergency was declared
last May and extended in November.
Yobe state Governor Ibrahim Gaidam rejected the proposal on the
grounds that local people had suffered under the emergency and this
harmed the government's counter-insurgency strategy.
After being accused of a sluggish response to the kidnapping, the
government has sent thousands of troops to the region, while the
United States and Britain also have teams on the ground to help with
Britain's minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, will travel to the
Nigerian capital on Wednesday for talks on further assistance, the
Foreign Office in London said.
Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima said 77 of the girls in the
video had been identified by parents, fellow students and girls who
escaped the abductions.
"The video got parents apprehensive again after watching it, but the
various steps taken by the governments and the coming of the foreign
troops is boosting our spirit," said Dumoma Mpura, a leader at the
girls' boarding school.
(Additional reporting by Lanre Ola in Maiduguri, Isaac Abrak, Bate
Felix, Joe Penney and Camillus Eboh in Abuja, Andrew Osborn in
London, and Lesley Wroughton and Phil Stewart in Washington, Writing
by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Janet Lawrence,
Peter Cooney and Ken Wills)
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