The Irish Mail on Sunday
Nigeria scraps hostage swap
MORE than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls held hostage in Nigeria came agonisingly close to freedom last week, until the country’s president called off a deal to swap them for imprisoned Islamist terror suspects.
Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida, who is trusted by both the government and the extremists from Boko Haram, acted as gobetween, risking his life on a mission to enter the gunmen’s lair and broker an agreement, according to security sources.
But last Saturday, at the 11th hour, President Goodluck Jonathan scrapped the exchange plan with a phone call from a crisis summit in Paris where he met foreign ministers from Britain, the US, France, Israel and other West African leaders.
It was agreed there that no deals should be struck with terrorists and force should be used instead.
The U-turn is said to have enraged Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram which kidnapped the girls from their school dormitories in Chibok, northern Nigeria, on April 14.
Insiders believe the scrapping of the plan and the ensuing stand-off puts the lives of the girls in even greater danger.
An intelligence source said: ‘The next video we see could show them being killed one by one.’
Trusted sources in Nigeria’s capital Abuja described how Shekau had agreed to bring the girls out of their forest camps in the remote north-east of the country in the early morning and take them to a safe location for the prisoner swap.
Around 2,000 Boko Haram members are currently detained, many without charge or trial.