Swap my son’s killers for kidnapped Nigerian girls, says mother

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The mother of a British man murdered by Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has said his killers should be freed if it can help return almost 300 kidnapped schoolgirls to their families.

Christopher McManus, from Oldham, was kidnapped by Boko Haram while working as an engineer in 2011. His captors shot him dead, at the age of 28, as UK special forces closed in on them in an attempt to rescue him after he had been held for 10 months.

His killers were caught and are now in prison, and it is believed their freedom is being sought by the Islamist group as part of a possible hostage swap.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has ruled out negotiations on an exchange of imprisoned Boko Haram members for the 276 girls snatched from a school in the north of the country a month ago.

But Laura McManus told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I can hear Christopher telling me ‘You know, Mum, what use are they in prison if they could be saving somebody’s life?’.

“I think some form of dialogue should be considered. It seems to me that there’s an awful lot of girls being hidden in Nigeria, which makes me think that there’s a lot more support for Boko Haram than we’ve considered. Perhaps it’s time to open a dialogue so that more atrocities don’t happen and more people don’t die.”

Asked how she could bring herself to propose the liberation of the people responsible for her son’s death, Mrs McManus said: “I think I’m much like everybody else in the world – if you are looking at a chance of somebody living or somebody dying, then that life is irreclaimable and cannot be replaced by anything else, so why wouldn’t you do everything you could to save it?”

She expressed her sympathies for the families of the kidnapped girls: “We had no idea at all how Christopher was being held, where he was being held, how he was being treated. It was indescribably awful and my heart bleeds for the families of these poor girls. It’s an extremely scary place to be.”

And she questioned Mr Jonathan’s position that concessions should not be made to hostage-takers for fear of encouraging further abductions.