ABUJA –– A new video showing some of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped two years ago gives hope they may return, their family and friends say.
The footage obtained by CNN, apparently filmed in December, shows 15 girls in black robes identifying themselves.
The girls were taken from a school in the town of Chibok by members of the Islamist group Boko Haram.
The kidnapping of the 276 girls triggered the global social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.
The campaign involved American first lady Michelle Obama and a host of celebrities. Despite their efforts, most of the girls are still missing. Thursday marks the second anniversary of their disappearance.
The footage of the girls is the first to be seen since May 2014, when about 100 of them were shown in a video.
But Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed urged caution, saying the government had received a similar video last July that led to a “cul-de-sac”.
He queried why it had been released now, if filmed in December, but stressed the government was “ready to explore all avenues that will lead to the release of the girls”.
The footage was broadcast after being handed to the Nigerian government.
Apparently filmed on Christmas Day 2015, it shows the girls pleading with the Nigerian government to co-operate with militants on their release.
They said they were being treated well but wanted to be with their families.
Ayuba Alamson Chibok told AFP news agency he had recognised two of his nieces. “It has given some hope,” he said. “Now we can believe these girls are still alive and we pray that they are released soon.”
One girl named only as Saa, who escaped soon after being abducted and now lives in the US, spotted three of her friends.
“The moment I saw them and recognised their faces, I started crying, with tears of joy rolling down from my eyes, thanking God for their lives,” she said in a statement issued through the Education Must Continue Initiative, a Washington-based charity that supports nine escapees.
“Seeing them gives me the courage to tell the world today that we should not lose hope.
“I want the world to raise their voice. Let’s not stop until the government hears us and does something about it.”
One mother, Yana Galang, identified five of the missing girls, Reuters news agency reports.
She and other family members were shown the video at a screening organised by local officials in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, where the Boko Haram insurgency began.
“They were definitely our daughters . . . all we want is for the government to bring back our girls,” said Galang.
Relatives of the girls marched in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Thursday.
The BBC’s Martin Patience in Abuja says they blame the previous government for doing nothing when the abduction took place, as well as the current administration for failing to devote enough resources to the search.
Boko Haram militants attacked the government boarding school in Borno state on April 14, 2014, seizing the girls who had gone there to take exams.
As the months passed, about 57 students managed to escape but at least 219 are still missing.
Amnesty International says about 2,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014. Many are used as sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers.
Although the militants are still launching attacks, the Nigerian army has made progress in its fight against them over the past year, our correspondent adds.