Abubakar Shekau denies claims that the Islamist group has agreed to ceasefire and will release abducted schoolgirls.

Islamist group Boko Haram has denied claims by Nigeria’s government that it has agreed to a ceasefire and will release more than 200 abducted schoolgirls.

The announcement came in a video sent to Agence France-Press on Saturday in which the militant group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, ruled out future talks with the government and said the girls had converted to Islam and been married off since being kidnapped more than six months ago.

Some 276 schoolgirls were seized from the remote north-east town of Chibok in Borno State in April. Many escaped in the first couple of days but 219 remain missing.

More than 500 women and girls aged from infancy to 65 have been kidnapped by Boko Haram and held in militant camps since 2009, Human Rights Watch said this week, including 60 reportedly kidnapped from two towns in north-eastern Nigeria last week. Many have been targeted because they are Christians or attending school.

Girls and women abducted by the Islamist group and later released have spoken of life in captivity that includes forced marriage and labour, rape, torture, psychological abuse and coerced religious conversion.

Shekau said in the latest video that all of the Chibok schoolgirls had become Muslims. “They have now memorised two chapters of the Qur’an,” he said.

Speaking in Hausa, he said: “We have married them off. They are in their marital homes.” .

Families of the Chibok schoolgirls said they were shocked but not surprised at their marriage claims.

Pogo Bitrus, the head of the Chibok Elders Forum, said: “We were sceptical about the talks to release our girls and we never took the ceasefire seriously because since the announcement, they have never stopped attacking communities. Therefore the information that our girls have been married off is not surprising to us.

Bitrus has four nieces among the hostages. We are only hoping the government will step up whatever efforts it is making to quell the insurgency,” he said.

Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor in Chibok whose daughter and niece are among the hostages, said the girls’ families were “lost for words”.

Bince they were kidnapped we have no certainty about the situation they are in. We keep getting conflicting information,” he said. “We only keep hoping that they will be returned to us.

Daniel Bekele of Human Rights Watch said the Chibok kidnappings and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign had focused global attention on the vulnerability of girls in north-eastern Nigeria.

Now the Nigerian government and its allies need to step up their efforts to put an end to these brutal abductions and provide for the medical, psychological and social needs of the women and girls who have managed to escape, he said !!!