The leader of an Islamist militant group which has abducted hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls today vowed to sell them as sex slaves despite international outrage at the kidnappings.
Abubakar Shekau, the head of Nigerian extremists Boko Haram, said he would 'sell on the market' more than 270 girls captured by his fighters last month.
The group – whose name means 'western education is forbidden' – snatched the children during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month, the French news agency AFP reported, citing a video it had obtained.
In the video, Shekau declares: 'I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah.'
He is seen dressed in combat fatigues standing in front of an armoured personnel carrier and two pick-up trucks mounted with sub-machine guns.
His message comes after former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is now a UN special envoy on education, led calls for Western governments including Britain to assist with their rescue.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the British government is in talks with their Nigerian couinterparts and 'security services' but declined to say if that might include special forces such as the SAS, according to the Daily Telegraph.
US Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend also promised help.
The brazenness and sheer brutality of the school attack has shocked Nigerians, who had been growing accustomed to hearing about atrocities in an increasingly bloody five-year-old Islamist insurgency in the north.
In the latest video, the images are blurry at times, but zoom in to Shekau, who speaks in the local Hausa language and Arabic as well as English.
Six armed men stand beside him with their faces covered.
For the first 14 minutes, he takes a swipe at democracy, Western education, efforts for Muslims and Christians to live in peace and rails against non-believers in Islam.
'I abducted a girl at a Western education school and you are disturbed. I said Western education should end.
'Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married,' he said.
'I will repeat this: Western education should fold up. I abducted your girls.'
'I will sell them in the market, by Allah,' Shekau said, claiming his group was holding the girls as 'slaves'.
'I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine,' he said elsewhere in the video.
Unconfirmed reports from local leaders in Chibok suggested that the girls had been taken across Nigeria's borders with Chad and Cameroon and sold as brides for as little as $12.
The girls are between 16 and 18 years old and had been recalled to the school to write a physics exam when they were seized.
About 50 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape from their captors in the first days after their abduction, but some 220 remain missing, according to the principal of the Chibok Girls Secondary School, Asabe Kwambura. Two of the girls have reportedly died from snake bites.
The kidnapping occurred the same day as a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, that killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja and marked the first attack on the capital in two years.
The militants repeated that bomb attack more than two weeks later in almost exactly the same spot, killing 19 people and wounding 34 in the suburb of Nyanya.
The girls' abductions have been hugely embarrassing for the government and threaten to distract attention from its first hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa, this week.
The apparent powerlessness of the military to prevent the attack or find the girls in three weeks has triggered anger and protests in the northeast and in Abuja.
Last month, authorities arrested a leader of a protest in Abuja that had called on them to do more to find the girls. The arrest has further fuelled outrage against the security forces.
In a televised 'media chat', President Jonathan pledged that the girls would soon be found and released, but also admitted he had no clue where they were.