The latest video released by Boko Haram, thought to have probably been shot in the forests of north-east Nigeria, the shows about 130 girls in black and grey full-length hijabs sitting amid semi-arid scrubland, reciting verses from the Quran and holding their hands aloft in prayer.
In one segment, Shekau claims that the girls, who are mainly Christians, have converted to Islam. In another, a girl in her early teens looks fearful as an unseen interviewer asks her to explain her conversion.
“The reason why I became a Muslim is because the path we are on is not the right path,” she says. “We should enter the right path so that Allah will be happy with us.”
The video was condemned by parents of the kidnapped girls, with one father telling The Telegraph uk that he would rather his daughter lost her life than see her used in a prisoner exchange or forcibly converted to Islam.
“I am not really interested in what Boko Haram’s demands are,” said the father, whose identity the Telegraph is withholding in order to avoid compromising his daughter’s safety. “My daughter is a Christian, she will never change. I would rather she died as a princess than convert to Islam.
“I don’t want a prisoner exchange either – our daughters are not prisoners, and they should not be exchanged for anyone. Let the government try to rescue them. If they have a prisoner exchange, that will look like the government is giving into Boko Haram, and it will just encourage them to take more hostages. They will never stop.”
The girls, thought to number up around 220 in all, were abducted from a boarding school in the remote town of Chibok in north-east Nigeria on April 14.
On Monday night, parents in the area were trying to turn on a generator, hoping they can watch the video and identify their daughters. As they did so, the father who had earlier said he had no wish for a prisoner swap appeared to have second thoughts. “I have changed my mind,” he said. “Anything to get my daughter back.”
But Shehu Sani, a Nigerian civil rights activist who carried out face-to-face peace talks with Boko Haram two years ago, urged the government to press ahead with a prisoner exchange “while the window is open”.
“These insurgents fall into three categories. We have the high-ranking ones, their foot soldiers, and then thirdly their families, some of whom have been put in jail by the security forces as a way of exerting emotional pressure,” he said. “The government should release the last category in exchange for these girls.
He said that no prisoner exchanges had ever been done in the past, but pointed out that Boko Haram had freed many of their comrades during attacks on the Nigerian government’s poorly-guarded jails. In March, a number were sprung from Giwa Barracks, a military prison in the north-east city of Maiduguri, after an attack by hundreds of Boko Haram fighters.