Christian rights groups urge caution in response to reports of Leah Sharibu's death

Leah Sharibu

Christian human rights organisations are continuing to hope that a teenager being held by a faction of the Boko Haram terrorist group is still alive despite reports that she has been killed by her captors.

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks that the 16-year-old may have been killed after a disturbing video released by Boko Haram splinter group ISWAP showed a Christian aid worker pleading for her life and making reference to Sharibu and another Christian captive, Alice Ngaddah. 

In the video, Grace Taku, an aid worker with Action Against Hunger who is being held by ISWAP, reportedly said: "I am begging on behalf of all of us. I don't want such to happen to us and it also happened again with Leah and Alice, because Nigeria could not do anything about them, they were not released, they were also killed."

Leah was one of 110 schoolgirls abducted from a school in Dapchi in February 2018.  While five of the girls died in captivity, the others were released the following month with the exception of Leah, who was kept back after refusing to convert to Islam.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide said its partners in the country were aware of the reports surrounding Leah but believe that she maybe being held by a different group from Taku and therefore continue to hope that she is still alive.

CSW said that until there was further evidence to suggest otherwise, it would continue to pray and advocate for her release.

Open Doors USA is exercising similar caution in light of the reports and has called on the Nigerian government to investigate the claims. 

"We, along with other observers, find the claim highly incredulous," an Open Doors USA spokesperson said. "Grace is clearly traumatized and under immense pressure as she tries to relay a lot of information."

Open Doors USA President David Curry expressed his concern that the Nigerian government is failing to contain the threat from Boko Haram as well as Fulani militants, who have also killed many Christians. 

"Without the resources to protect, and the will of duly elected civil government to fight the terrorist agendas of these groups, northern Nigeria and other surrounding areas may be lost to these Islamic extremist groups," he said. 

Commenting on the reports surrounding Leah, he said: "Let us all take this story as reason to double down on our efforts to intervene and decisively move to protect Leah and others like her who have fallen into the clutches of Boko Haram."