*Michelle Obama has taken the unique step of delivering her husband’s weekly presidential address to express outrage at the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls.
Speaking for the first time instead of the president, she said she and the president were “outraged and heartbroken” over the abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok on 14 April.
“What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident. It’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.
“I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home. In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”
Militants from Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram, fighting for an Islamist state, stormed the secondary school in the northeastern village of Chibok on April 14 and seized 276 girls who were taking exams. Some managed to escape but around 200 remain missing.
Boko Haram’s leader said in a video Monday he will release the schoolgirls abducted by his fighters last month in exchange for the release of militant prisoners. Dozens of the abducted girls were shown wearing full veils and praying in the video, which was obtained by French news agency AFP and which U.S. officials believe is genuine.
The recording is the first apparent confirmation that any of the missing students remain alive.
“These girls have become Muslims,” Shekau said in the 17-minute recording. “We will never release them until after you release our brethren.”
In one part of the recording, the girls recite “Al-Fatiha” — the first chapter of the Quran — in Arabic. “Al-Fatiha,” which comprises seven verses, is one of the first prayers taught to those learning Islam.
AFP declined to release a word-for-word translation of the girls’ comments because they were being held as hostages. It also reported that Nigeria’s interior minister Abba Moro quickly rejected the idea of a prisoner release.
The United States and Britain have flown in experts to help the search effort in Nigeria.
NBC News counter-terrorism analyst Michael Leiter said Boko Haram had previously demanded the release of imprisoned members.
“This is consistent with the group’s goals,” he told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, adding that it was “unlikely” Nigeria’s government would meet the demand.