LAGOS, Nigeria - Scores of girls and young women kidnapped from a school in Nigeria are being forced to marry their Islamic extremist abductors, a civic organization reported Wednesday.
At the same time, the Boko Haram extremists are negotiating over the students' fate and demanding an unspecified ransom for their release, a Borno state community leader told the Associated Press.
He said the Wednesday night message from the abductors also claimed that two of the girls had died from snake bites.
The message was sent to a member of a presidential committee mandated last year to mediate a cease-fire with the extremists, said the civic leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the talks.
The news of negotiations comes as parents say the girls are being sold into marriage to Boko Haram extremists. The students are being paid 2,000 naira ($12) to marry the fighters, Halite Aliyu of the Borno-Yobe People's Forum told the AP. She said the parents' information about mass weddings was coming from villagers in the Sambisa Forest, on Nigeria's border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is known to have hideouts.
"The latest reports are that they have been taken across the borders, some to Cameroon and Chad," Aliyu said. It was not possible to verify the reports about more than 200 missing girls kidnapped in the northeast by the Boko Haram network two weeks ago.
"Some of them have been married off to insurgents. A medieval kind of slavery. You go and capture women and then sell them off," community elder Pogu Bitrus of Chibok, the town where the girls were abducted, told the BBC Hausa Service.
Outrage over the failure to rescue the girls is growing and hundreds of women braved heavy rain to march Wednesday to Nigeria's National Assembly to protest lack of action over the students. Hundreds more also marched in Kano, Nigeria's second city in the north.
"The leaders of both houses said they will do all in their power but we are saying two weeks already have past, we want action now," said activist Mercy Asu Abang.
"We want our girls to come home alive - not in body bags," she said.