Boko Haram: Negotiations could ensure release of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

Boko Haram released footage of the kidnapped schoolgirls, dressed in the full Muslim hijab, earlier this year. Most of the girls are from Christian families.

A negotiation deal may be close to being brokered with Boko Haram, which could secure the release of the missing Chibok schoolgirls, the Telegraph reports.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is said to be negotiating a prisoner swap, and has been coordinating secret talks between the Islamist group and the Nigerian government.

President Goodluck Jonathan has previously claimed that his government will not negotiate with the terrorists, who have asked for the release of some of their "brethren", though an exchange deal was agreed last May.

It collapsed, however, and an estimated 220 girls remain in captivity. It is now nmore than five months since they were taken.

The Red Cross has not confirmed its involvement in another deal, though a spokesperson told the Telegraph: "We have a dialogue with all the different parties, and if there is any way we can help as a neutral humanitarian organisation, we will."

Nigerian rights activist Fed Eno said that Red Cross staff members have been working closely with the government to secure the girls' release, however.

"There have been two or three ICRC people at each meeting - international staff rather than Nigerians - and they accompany the government security agents to the various prisons and detention centres to identify the people that Boko Haram want released," he said.

The 276 girls were abducted from their school in Chibok, northern Nigeria on April 14. Their plight gained international attention, with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls trending on Twitter and politicians, celebrities and activists calling for their release.

Specialist teams from the UK, US, France and China were sent to Nigeria to assist authorities in the rescue effort, but President Jonathan has faced criticism for what many see as a slow and inadequate response.

The father of one of the abducted girls criticised the government for failing his daughter and her fellow captives during a press conference in July.

"Is it because we're poor country people that the government isn't doing anything?" Malla Abu asked.

"Suppose these were the daughters of someone important; would they still be in the forest after 90 days?"

Boko Haram, which loosely translates to "Western education is forbidden", is thought to be responsible for the deaths of at least 13,000 people since it became active in 2009.