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Nigerian President Makes Promise to Malala to Rescue Kidnapped Girls

  • Heather Murdock

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has promised Malala Yousafzai -- a Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban on her way to school -- that his government will rescue the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. The promise came at a special meeting in Abuja Monday, exactly three months after the girls were taken. Boko Haram has also released a new video mocking activists calling for the return of the girls.

Three months ago in the Nigerian town of Chibok, nearly 300 schoolgirls climbed into trucks manned by men in fatigues. When the men started burning down the schoolhouse, the girls knew they were not, as they had said, soldiers rescuing them from a coming attack.

More than 50 girls escaped that night but more than 200 remain missing.

"What are we demanding? #Bring back our girls now and alive! What are we demanding? Bring back our girls now and alive!" protesters shouted during a rally.

In Abuja, activists in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign still rally each day to demand their rescue.

Boko Haram, the insurgent group that has killed thousands of people this year alone, claims to be holding the girls and has threatened to sell them as "slaves."

After her meeting with President Jonathan Monday, Malala said the president promised the girls will be rescued.

"The president fortunately promised that he will do something for these girls," Malala said. "And he promised me that the girls will be returned as soon as possible."

Visiting Nigeria on her 17th birthday, Malala is an activist for girls' education. Two years ago, the Taliban shot her in the head for her work in Pakistan, drawing international outrage and making her famous worldwide.

Malala says she spoke to some of the schoolgirls that escaped, adding that although they are free, they are still suffering.

"I spoke to him about those girls whom I met yesterday, and who were telling me they cannot go to school," Malala said. "They have dreams. They want to become doctors, engineers and teachers but the government is not providing them any facility. They also need health facilities. They also need security but the government is not doing anything."

Sitting next to Malala, presidential spokesperson Reuben Abati defended the government's record on education.

"This administration has spent more on education than any other administration before now," Abati said. "Education is one of President Jonathan's main priority areas."

But Malala says more than 10 million children have no access to education in Nigeria, and calls on the international community as well as the Nigerian government to address the problem.

However much of northeastern Nigeria has been under emergency rule for more than a year and authorities say they simply don't have the manpower to secure all the schools. Hundreds of children have already been killed in their dormitories.

In a newly-released video, Abubakar Shekau, the man who claims to lead Boko Haram, grins as he mocks the #BringBackOurGirls activists.

"Bring back our girls? Aww-oo. Bring back our army. Bring back our army," he taunted.

He's referring to his repeated demand for the release of Boko Haram prisoners.

In the video, Shekau also claims responsibility for last month's bombings in Lagos and the Nigerian capital of Abuja, and he threatens Muslim clerics that preach against extremism.

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