CAIRO: Egypt's prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar urged the Nigerian Muslim group Boko Haram group Tuesday to free more than 200 schoolgirls it kidnapped and has threatened to sell into slavery.
Al-Azhar, which runs the main Sunni Islamic university in the region, said harming the girls "completely contradicts the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles."
It called "for the immediate release" of the girls, abducted on April 14 in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state.
Abubakar Shekau, who leads the group that has killed thousands in a five-year uprising, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
In a video message obtained by AFP on Monday, Shekau said the group was holding the girls as "slaves" and would "sell (them) in the market."
A total of 276 girls were kidnapped when Boko Haram stormed their school under the cover of darkness and loaded them onto trucks. Some managed to escape, but more than 220 girls are still being held, according to police.
Global outrage, initially slow to emerge, has been building, including calls by US senators for Washington to intervene. (AFP)