The more than 200 missing Chibok schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria nearly two years ago are allegedly being used as a bargaining chip by Boko Haram, according to a commander from the militant group that is waging a violent insurgency in the region. The students went missing overnight on April 15, 2014, when the Islamist group launched a midnight ambush on their school in Nigeria's northern Borno State, and kidnapped 276 girls from their dormitories.
A vast hunt for them involving the Nigerian armed forces and support from the international community has so far yielded no results.
In an interview with VICE on HBO, a Boko Haram commander told correspondent Kaj Larsen that he knew where the Chibok school girls are being held.
"I know where they are," said the commander, who requested anonymity.
"You want to know where they are? They are not with us. If we can get what we want, we know where they are, we will get them," he continued.
After being asked if the girls were being used as a bargaining chip, the commander responded saying Boko Haram wants Nigeria to "commit to the teachings of Allah and the Prophet Muhammed."
Since the kidnapping, 57 girls have managed to find their way home, but two years later the vast majority are still missing. As the Nigerian government struggled to control the situation, the abductions have sparked international outcry — and the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.
Shortly after the attack two years ago, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau issued a video statement saying his group was responsible for the missing schoolgirls.
Nigeria's military has ramped up its campaign against the militants over the last year, claiming a series of successes and pushing Boko Haram back from several strongholds in the northern part of the country. The group remains active in the region and has spread its brand of violence to neighboring countries like Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, instigating a regional and international coordinated response. Most recently, the group waged a deadly attack on the northeastern city of Maiduguri on January 31, killing 65. Many were burned.
Nearly 1.5 million people and 500,000 children have been forced from their homes in Nigeria as a result of Boko Haram's six-year long insurgency.
The series premiere of VICE on HBO airs this Friday at 11pm EST.