Abuja - The commander of Nigeria's Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed in a video released on Monday that the group abducted women and children from police barracks in a town recently attacked by his forces.
The undated video seen by reporters shows Boko Haram leader Abu Shekau with women and children, whom he claimed to be holding captive in retaliation for the arrests by Nigerian authorities of relatives of Boko Haram members.
Demanding the release of sect members and their families, Shekau said: “If you think that you can free these women and children from us, then come out and face us.”
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin”, has been waging an insurgency since 2009 in Africa's most populous country.
Sitting next to an AK-47 rifle on a table covered with a rug, Shekau said in the local Hausa language that the group's mission is to fight “the government that is fighting with Islam, government of democracy, constitution and literacy”.
Wearing a military uniform, he said Boko Haram was fighting Christians and anyone allied with them.
Shekau claimed responsibility for last week's attack on Bama town in Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria. In the attack on a police station, at least 42 people died, including police officers and civilians.
Shekau denied killing civilians during a mid-April attack on Baga, a fishing village on Lake Chad.
By some reports, nearly 200 people died and more than 2 000 homes were destroyed in Baga in Borno State - a stronghold of the Islamist extremists - after Nigerian security forces allegedly went on a rampage following a Boko Haram attack on April 17. It was Nigeria's military “that went to the town and burnt down houses that you like and killed people that you like”, Shekau said.
The military has denied the scale of the destruction, stating that only 36 people died in the clashes, including 30 insurgents.
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, attacks by Boko Haram or splinter groups and extrajudicial killings by the security forces have killed more than 3 600 people since 2009. - Sapa-dpa