Islamist kidnappers offer to swap 200 girls for its jailed militants

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Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists are offering to free more than 200 young women and girls kidnapped from a boarding school in the town of Chibok in exchange for the release of militant leaders held by the government.

A human rights activist said Boko Haram’s current offer is limited to the girls from the school in north-eastern Nigeria whose mass abduction in April 2014 ignited worldwide outrage and a campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls” that stretched to the White House.

The new initiative reopens an offer made last year to the government of former president Goodluck Jonathan to release the 219 students in exchange for 16 Boko Haram detainees, the activist said.

“Another window of opportunity opened” in the last few days, according to Fred Eno, who has been negotiating with Boko Haram for more than a year.

He said he could not discuss details but explained that the recent slew of Boko Haram bloodletting – some 350 people killed in the past nine days – is an attempt to to seek a stronger negotiating position.

Presidential adviser Femi Adesina said on Saturday that Nigeria’s government “will not be averse” to talks with Boko Haram. “Most wars, however furious or vicious, often end around the negotiation table,” he said.