UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged the Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group in Nigeria, to free hundreds of kidnapped schoolchildren. The group's leader has threatened to extend attacks to Cameroon.
UN Secretary-General Ban issued a personal appeal to Boko Haram early on Friday to "immediately and unconditionally" free hundreds of children seized in April 2014.
Ban said he issued the appeal "as a father and grandfather" in addition to his global role as UN chief. He called on Boko Haram to end what he called their "destruction of so many lives and communities."
Sa'ad Belo, a refugee camp coordinator in Nigeria's Adamawa state, said his team had been able to reunite seven children with their parents but added that hundreds remained alone after families fled into Cameroon.
Shekau threatens escalation
In a video posted on YouTube, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to escalate attacks from northeastern Nigeria into Cameroon.
Referring to Nigeria's February 14 presidential election, Shekau said: "A man cannot be a Muslim without rebelling against democracy."
Cameroon's Biya calls for help
On Thursday, Cameroon President Paul Biya called for international military help to repel the Boko Haram insurgency.
He said Cameroonian troops sent to his country's northern region had killed numerous Islamist fighters but said Boko Haram "remains capable of bouncing back."
Biya said he regretted that a regional military force against the Islamists, discussed at a recent summit in Paris, had not yet been established.
The Washington-based Council for Foreign Relations recently estimated that more than 10,000 people had been killed in Nigeria over the past year and more than 1 million displaced because of Boko Haram's five-year insurgency.