Nigeria’s Islamic extremist leader threatened in a videotaped statement seen on Monday to sell the more than 200 teenage girls abducted from a school in the remote northeast of the country three weeks ago.

Hour-long video

Abubakar Shekau for the first time also claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction, in a video reviewed by The Associated Press. “I abducted your girls,” said the leader of Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful.”

“By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace,” he said in the hour-long video that 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 unverified reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors and that others were carried into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.

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.

The mass abduction and the military’s failure to rescue the girls and young women have caused outrage with protests in major cities. Protesters accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being insensitive to the girls’ plight.

First lady Patience Jonathan fuelled anger on Monday 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.

It was unclear what authority Mrs. Jonathan would have to give such orders, since there is no office of first lady in the Nigerian Constitution. The first lady’s office denied there were any arrests.

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