Karilyn Coates, 10, joins others in a candlelight vigil for the more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, at All Souls Unitarian Church in Colorado Springs. Picture: The Colorado Springs Gazette, Mark Reis

Johannesburg -

Women, Children, and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana on Friday called for the safe return of more than 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria.

“We call on their captors not to allow any harm to befall the children and to hand over the girls to authorities so that they can be safely reunited with their families,” Xingwana said in a statement.

The schoolgirls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok in north-eastern Borno state by Islamic militant group Boko Haram on April 14.

Another eight girls were kidnapped by the group on Tuesday.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with the people of Nigeria, especially the families of the schoolgirls, during this difficult time,” said Xingwana.

She urged the Nigerian government and the international community to double efforts to secure the safe release of the girls.

“The kidnapping of the schoolgirls is a serious human rights violation and a crime against humanity,” she said.

“It violates the rights of women and the girl child who are in most cases the biggest victims in conflict situations.”

Xingwana also sent a message of support to her Nigerian counterpart Hajiya Zainab Maina and to the families of the abducted schoolgirls. - Sapa