The leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has threatened to sell more than 200 school girls he claims his militants kidnapped last month.
In a video Abubakar Shekau said that Allah had instructed him in this as they were his property.
The abduction of the girls threatens to overshadow the Nigerian government’s hosting of the World Economic Forum for Africa this week.
Washington has offered counter terrorism and logistical help to the Nigerian government which has so far failed to find the girls.
White House Spokesperson Jay Carney said the US viewed what had happened as an outrage and a terrible tragedy:
“The president has been briefed several times, and his national security team continues to monitor the situation there closely. The State Department has been in regular touch with the Nigerian government about what we might do to help support its efforts to find and free these young women.”
The apparent powerlessness of the Nigerian military to locate and rescue the girls in three weeks has led to protests in Abuja and Lagos.
Hundreds turned out on Monday, angry and desperate parents included, to call for the authorities to get the girls back.