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Threat to sell abducted schoolgirls

Nigeria's Islamic extremist leader is threatening to sell the 300 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school three weeks ago.

Abubakar Shekau also claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction, in a video reviewed by The Associated Press.

He threatens to attack more schools and abduct more girls

"I abducted your girls," said the leader of Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful".

He described the girls as "slaves" and said "By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace."

The hour-long video starts with fighters lofting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great."

It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors - who paid a nominal bride price of 12 US dollars (£7) - and that others have been carried into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.

In the video, Shekau also says the students "will remain slaves with us". That appears a reference to the ancient jihadi custom of enslaving women captured in a holy war, who then can be used as sex slaves.

"They are slaves and I will sell them because I have the market to sell them," he said, speaking in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.

An intermediary who has said Boko Haram is ready to negotiate ransoms for the girls also said two of the girls have died of snakebite and about 20 are ill. He said Christians among the girls have been forced to convert to Islam.

Nigeria's police have said more than 300 girls were abducted. Of that number, 276 remain in captivity and 53 escaped.

The mass abduction and the military's failure to rescue the girls and young women has roused national outrage with protests in major cities. Protesters accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being insensitive to the girl's plight.

First lady Patience Jonathan fuelled anger when a leader of a protest march said she ordered the arrests of two protest leaders, expressed doubts there was any kidnapping and accused the protest leaders of belonging to Boko Haram.

I Ayo Adewuyi, spokesman for the first lady, said he was unaware of any arrests. "The first lady did not order the arrest of anybody, and I'm sure of that," he said.

Last night, the president said his administration is doing everything possible to free the girls.

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