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Top Saudi cleric condemns Boko Haram over kidnapping of schoolgirls

Saudi Arabia's grand mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, described Boko Haram as misguided and 'set up to smear the image of Islam'.
Saudi Arabia's grand mufti has condemned Nigeria's Boko Haram for its kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls and described the group as "set up to smear the image of Islam".

Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said the movement, which says it wants to establish a pure Islamic state in northern Nigeria, was misguided.

His remarks came as religious leaders in the Muslim world, who rarely comment on militant violence, joined in denouncing Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, for saying Allah had told him to sell off the kidnapped girls as forced brides.

"This is a group that has been set up to smear the image of Islam and must be offered advice, shown their wrong path and be made to reject it," Sheikh told the Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat in an interview published on Friday.

"These groups are not on the right path because Islam is against kidnapping, killing and aggression," he said. "Marrying kidnapped girls is not permitted."

Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 200 girls from a secondary school in Chibok village, near the Cameroon border, while they took exams on 14 April. Fifty have since escaped.

Shekau's video was released on Monday, sparking a wave of revulsion in Nigeria and abroad, and prompting offers of help from countries such as the US, Britain and France to search for them.

Boko Haram's five-year insurgency aims to revive a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, whose 170 million people are split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.

Its violent attacks have become by far the biggest security threat to Africa's top oil producer and it has expanded to menace the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

On Thursday, Islamic scholars and human rights officials at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation denounced the kidnapping as "a gross misinterpretation of Islam".

This week, Al-Azhar, the prestigious Cairo-based seat of Sunni learning, also said that the kidnappings had "nothing to do with the tolerant and noble teachings of Islam".

Read more from The Guardian

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